Send to

Choose Destination
BMC Med Educ. 2018 Jun 18;18(1):141. doi: 10.1186/s12909-018-1254-7.

Implementing a medical student interpreter training program as a strategy to developing humanism.

Author information

Department of Medicine, The New York University School of Medicine, New York, NY, USA.
Department of Family and Community Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA.
Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA.
Department of Medicine, Penn State College of Medicine, Hershey, PA, USA.
Health Federation of Philadelphia, Philadelphia, PA, USA.
Departments of Pediatrics, Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, and Humanities, Penn State College of Medicine, 500 University Drive, Mail Code H085, Hershey, PA, 17033, USA.



Humanistic care in medicine has shown to improve healthcare outcomes. Language barriers are a significant obstacle to humanistic care, and trained medical interpreters have demonstrated to effectively bridge the gap for the vulnerable limited English proficiency (LEP) patient population. One way in which medical schools can train more humanistic physicians and provide language access is through the implementation of programs to train bilingual medical students as medical interpreters. The purpose of this prospective study was to evaluate whether such training had an impact on bilingual medical student's interpretation skills and humanistic traits.


Between 2015 and 2017, whole-day (~ 8 h) workshops on medical interpretation were offered periodically to 80 bilingual medical students at the Penn State College of Medicine. Students completed a series of questionnaires before and after the training that assessed the program's effectiveness and its overall impact on interpretation skills and humanistic traits. Students also had the opportunity to become certified medical interpreters.


The 80 student participants were first- to third- year medical students representing 21 languages. Following training, most students felt more confident interpreting (98%) and more empathetic towards LEP patients (87.5%). Students' scores in the multiple-choice questions about medical interpretation/role of the interpreter were also significantly improved (Chi-Square test, p < 0.05). All students who decided to take the exam were able to successfully become certified interpreters. Ninety-two percent of participants reported they would recommend the program and would be willing to serve as a future "coaches" for interpreter training workshops delivered to peer students.


Our program was successful in increasing self-reported measures of empathy and humanism in medical students. Our data suggests that implementation of medical interpreter training programs can be a successful strategy to develop of humanism in medical students, and aid in the development of sustainable language access for LEP patients.


Empathy; Humanism; Limited English proficiency patients; Medical education; Medical interpretation; Medical students

[Indexed for MEDLINE]
Free PMC Article

Supplemental Content

Full text links

Icon for BioMed Central Icon for PubMed Central
Loading ...
Support Center