Talk Louder? Communicating with Your Spanish Speaking Patients

Format Publication ID Version Published
Case 8427 1 June 20, 2011
Medical College of Wisconsin


Residents often try to communicate with patients who do not speak their language. In the Emergency Department (ED), residents may not feel they have enough time and resources to use interpreter services and will attempt to communicate with patients on their own. This can be fraught with danger. This session is intended to demonstrate to residents the difficulty and risk of communicating on their own or through a family member. At the end of the session, residents should feel more comfortable using a phone or live interpreter to communicate with non English speaking patients, and less comfortable using a family member for communication.


Callahan E, Garcia E, Rehm J. Talk Louder? Communicating with Your Spanish Speaking Patients. MedEdPORTAL; 2011. Available from:

Educational Objectives

  1. To help physicians understand the importance of using interpreters to improve patient care.

  2. To understand the differences between using a family member, an interpreter phone, and a live interpreter.

  3. Develop strategies to improve communication with non-English speaking patients.


  • Interpreters, Latino, Hispanic Americans (MeSH), Non-English Speaking


  • Medical
    • Emergency Medicine

Competencies Addressed

  • Medical
    • Interpersonal & Communication Skills
    • Patient Care

Academic Focus

  • Clinical Sciences
    • Clinical Exam
    • Clinical Skills/Doctoring

Professional Interest

  • Communication Skills
  • Evaluation of Clinical Performance
  • Instructional Materials/Methods

Intended Audience

  • Professional School
    • Medical Student
  • Professional School Post-Graduate Training
    • Resident

Instructional Methods

  • Problem-based Learning
  • Simulation
  • Standardized Patient

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