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Do you know when (and how) to access an interpreter? Review the resources available through Interpreter Services and the requirements regarding documentation in this week’s “Did You Know?” message.

When to call an interpreter – Significant decisions regarding patient care
You should call a trained interpreter for significant decisions regarding patient care for which the patient’s authorization or understanding is necessary. Examples include consent for (or refusal of) treatment, patient history, assessment and diagnosis, discharge instructions, and other issues deemed medically significant.

Family members may be used to interpret basic questions like “Are you cold?” or “Would you like a blanket?,” etc.

To request an interpreter
To request a Spanish interpreter, go to and follow the instructions. For languages other than Spanish, contact Pacific Interpreters at 1-855-456-5224.

What if I’m bilingual?
If language, culture and health literacy are in question, it is important to use an interpreter for improved communication. Co-workers who are bilingual and believe they do not need an interpreter should contact Myriam Peereboom in Interpreter Services at for a formal evaluation.

Don’t use family members as an interpreter!
The Joint Commission and the Department of Justice do not consider the use of family members and/or children as having used an interpreter. The use of family members, children or ad-hoc interpreters can also result in a breach of confidentiality and/or HIPAA violations.

We receive federal funds and therefore have to provide interpreter services to anyone who needs interpretation under the provision of Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. In order to be fully compliant and meet our moral and legal obligation to provide an interpreter, do not use family members and/or friends to interpret for the patient or physician!

Documentation in the medical record should identify the name or ID code of the interpreter assisting the patient and staff members. Any work with an interpreter must be documented in notes in the patient’s chart. Know who you are working with – look for the interpreter’s ID badge and document the interpreter’s name in your notes.

If using a phone service, document the interpreter’s ID number provided at the beginning of the call. The Joint Commission checks the patient charts for this documentation during accreditation surveys.

Access previous “Did You Know?” messages at