Shihan Chen

and 6 more

Background: Linguistic concordance between healthcare providers and patients is critical for ensuring quality healthcare. Professional interpretation can be expensive and challenging to access. This scoping review aimed to explore the evidence on the role and education of medical students as interpreters in caring for patients with limited language proficiency (LLP), and to determine the benefits and risks associated with this practice. Methods: A scoping review using the Joanna Briggs Institute methodology was conducted. Six literature databases were searched systematically between 1946 – 02 Aug 2023. All publications discussing the use of medical students as interpreters in healthcare settings were included. Retained documents were analyzed using Covidence, with coding by two raters and regular team discussions. A thematic analysis framework was used. Results: Thirteen articles met the eligibility criteria. Multilingual medical students are frequently asked to interpret in healthcare settings. This was found to be advantageous in reducing communication barriers, improving care quality, and contributing to students’ clinical experience. Concerns were raised regarding the lack of knowledge on the professional obligations of interpreters. Interpretation training programs for medical students have been implemented at selective healthcare centres and demonstrated successful results in providing care to LLP patients. Conclusions: Medical students play an important role in addressing language barriers in healthcare institutions when serving LLP patients, by combining their unique position in the healthcare team with their medical, linguistic, and cultural competency skills. Academic institutions stand to benefit from offering interpretation training programs and integrating medical students as a resource towards delivering language-concordant care.