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Ann Oncol. 2010 Jan;21(1):27-32. doi: 10.1093/annonc/mdp289. Epub 2009 Jul 21.

Interviewing patients using interpreters in an oncology setting: initial evaluation of a communication skills module.

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  • 1Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences, Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center, New York, NY, USA.



To develop a communication skills training (CST) module for health care professionals, particularly in the area of oncology, on how to conduct interviews using interpreters and to evaluate the module in terms of participant's self-efficacy and satisfaction.


Forty-seven multi-specialty health care providers from the New York Metropolitan Area attended a communication skills module at a Comprehensive Cancer Care Center about how to conduct clinical interviews utilizing interpreters. The development of this module was on the basis of current literature and followed the Comskil model previously utilized for other doctor-patient CSTs. Participants were given pre- and post-surveys to evaluate their own confidence as well as the helpfulness of the module.


On the basis of a retrospective pre-post measure, participants reported an increase in their confidence about interviewing patients via translators. In addition, at least 80% of participants reported their satisfaction with the various components of the module by either agreeing or strongly agreeing with the different statements.


We have developed a module that trains clinicians in effective collaboration with professional medical interpreters and shown its ability to increase the confidence of clinician's to work with limited English proficiency patients. Our approach intends to minimize not only the language barrier but also the cultural barriers that could potentially interfere with patients' care.


This work has important practice implications in the oncology setting, where cultural sensitivity is paramount and empathic exchange with the patient optimizes their sense of being well supported by their health care team. We believe that this model is generalizable to many other medical settings where use needs to be made of a professional interpreter.

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