Interpreting in Palliative Care

A Continuing Education Workshop

Cynthia Roat, MPH; Anne Kinderman, MD; and Alicia Fernandez, MD

As the use of palliative care grows, so does the diversity of patients who opt for it. A free curriculum for trainers of medical interpreters covers the topic with sensitivity.

November 2011

Palliative care seeks to optimize quality of life and to relieve physical and emotional suffering through pain management, comfort care, and spiritual support. A 2010 survey of patients in public hospitals receiving palliative care found that 40% spoke limited English. Since palliative care depends on regular, clear communication among providers, patients, and families, interpreters are key members of any palliative care team.

For interpreters, conversations involving palliative care, especially those at the end of life, can be among the most difficult to convey — not only linguistically and culturally, but personally. Yet to date, there has been little training for interpreters in this field.

This seven-hour workshop curriculum is free and can be downloaded. Note that the curriculum was designed for health care interpreter trainers to use in preparing experienced medical interpreters to work in palliative care settings. The most common non-English languages in California are provided: simplified Chinese, traditional Chinese, Korean, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog, and Vietnamese.

Additionally, the workshop curriculum is available as a self-paced web-based course, developed by Health Care Interpreter Network (HCIN) in conjunction with CHCF and workshop coauthor Cynthia Roat. The $35 web-based course covers the same topics as the original workshop and is appropriate for interpreters of all languages. One segment, in which interpreters practice palliative care discussions, is available for Spanish/English interpreters; other languages will be added in the future. The course is available at HCIN.org.

How to Use the Curriculum

The curriculum comprises four pieces:

  1. The lessons document, including helpful samples for a student survey, class outline and template, workshop schedule, sign-in sheet, and detailed lesson plans, is available as a PDF under Document Downloads. It totals 74 pages and is formatted for double-sided printing.
  2. The handouts document, including the interpreting practice dialogues in the various target languages, is available as a PDF under Document Downloads. It totals 200 pages and is formatted for double-sided printing.
  3. The PowerPoint Presentation provides an introductory lecture on palliative care and is available under Document Downloads. In addition, an Expanded PowerPoint Presentation is available that can be used either as a more detailed substitute for the original presentation within the course (it requires additional time, so other material will need to be omitted) or as supplemental preparation for the trainer. Be sure to take advantage of the lecture notes under each slide.
  4. The videos, used in Lesson 2, are available below to view or download.

How to Use the Videos

Three videos are used in Lesson 2. You can view them below in the players on this page.

You may also download the MP4 files to your computer for use in the classroom via the Download MP4 Video links below.

Video for Lesson 2, Scene 1 Download MP4 Video

Video for Lesson 2, Scene 2 Download MP4 Video

Video for Lesson 2, Scene 3 Download MP4 Video