Grantee Spotlight from New Jersey

Training Staff in Best Practices for Medical Interpreters


Before the training, the medical assistants didn’t feel empowered to tell clinicians if they were doing something inappropriately, but afterwards they felt like they could just add a little reminder, ‘remember, I need to…’ which allowed for little corrections without causing stress.
Deborah Polacek, RN, Vice President of Program Operations, New Jersey Family Planning League
A seated clinician speaks to a seated client while a medical interpreter stands behind the client.

The New Jersey Family Planning League (NJFPL) provides funding, support, monitoring, training, and technical assistance to eight subrecipients. During site visits, NJFPL staff observed that visits with clients with limited English proficiency were often interpreted by a staff medical assistant (MA). Although their language skills were proficient, NJFPL wanted to ensure that the MAs were fully equipped and trained in best practices for serving in this interpreter role. NJFPL decided to offer MAs a two-day in-person training that outlines the best practices for medical interpreters, covers topics such as best practices for interpretation, cultural competence, and medical interpreter ethics, and allows MAs to role-play and receive coaching and feedback. Thus far, 75 MAs have become trained medical interpreters.

In the following months, these trained interpreters became increasingly aware of the need for clinicians to be trained on their role and on the best ways for them to interact with the MAs when functioning as an interpreter during a client visit. The NJFPL offered training to clinicians which led to improved communication between clinicians and MAs, and became the inspiration for the FPNTC’s Working Effectively with Medical Interpreters eLearning course that over 200 people have already registered for. This training is approved for 0.5 contact hours of continuing nursing education (CNE) certificate upon successful completion of this activity, free of charge.