Talk Louder? Communicating With Your Spanish Speaking Patients

Publication ID Published Volume
8427 June 20, 2011 7


Residents often try to communicate with patients who do not speak their language. In the emergency department, residents may not feel they have enough time and resources to use interpreter services and may instead attempt to communicate with patients on their own. This can be fraught with danger. Therefore, this resource is intended to demonstrate to residents the difficulty and risk of communicating on their own or through a family member. The objective of this session is to make residents 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. During our implementation of this resource, the learners had very low proficiency in medical Spanish. Fifteen out of 20 had little to no fluency, and five out of 20 reported limited proficiency. We were able to demonstrate effectiveness by pre- and postsession evaluations. Prior to the session, more than half the learners were comfortable or very comfortable using a family member to interpret. After the session, only seven residents remained comfortable. Three learners were uncomfortable using an interpreter phone, and two were uncomfortable using a live interpreter before the session. Afterward, no learner was uncomfortable with either of these two methods.


Callahan E, Garcia E, Rehm J. Talk louder? Communicating with your Spanish speaking patients. MedEdPORTAL Publications. 2011;7:8427.

Educational Objectives

By the end of this session, learners will be to:

  1. Understand the importance of using interpreters to improve patient care.
  2. 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, Non-English Speaking

Prior Scholarly Dissemination

Material Access

Please sign in to access this material.

Please register for an AAMC account if you do not have one.


  • Contact Us

Subscribe to Our Quarterly Newsletter

Receive featured content & announcements!

ISSN 2374-8265