For Medical Interpreters

UWMC Interpreter Services values its relationships with the local, national, and international interpreting community.

This page contains links to information about:

UWMC Language Support and Equal Access Operational Norms

UWMC uses interpretation, translation, patient navigation, and culturally appropriate care to support patients as they move through our system. We develop and maintain the fullest possible toolbox of resources in each of these areas. We are happy to share these.

UWMC considers medical interpreters to be full members of the care team. We encourage interpreters to identify barriers to care and to help us bridge these barriers. Interpreters are welcome to inquire of the care team whether documentation being handed to the patient in English might be available in translation. In the inpatient setting, an interpreter may see that a patient has not received his Admit Packet with all materials printed in his language, and may ask for one. An interpreter who notices a patient praying on bare floor may inquire at the Interpreter office for a Muslim prayer rug.

UWMC has direct language lines in all of its staffed languages, so that patients may call Interpreter Services directly for navigation help. We invite agency interpreters and community outreach workers to give patients the interpreter language line numbers. See the Contact Us page for those numbers.

UWMC has developed several excellent patient navigation guides, which interpreters may print off on any computer and share with patients.

Continuing Education Modules for Medical Interpreters

We encourage interpreters to engage in active learning about anatomy and physiology, health care trends, community needs, and refinements of the interpreter role. To this end, we offer a rich set of training modules, all at no cost, to support the interpreting community. This set of materials continues to grow as we create new trainings. (If you are interested in culturally appropriate care for specific disciplines, such as chaplains, nursing, social workers, etc, please contact us directly at

The materials available on this website are copyrighted either to UWMC or to individual members of the staff who developed them privately. In either case, the materials may be used for private, personal education. For dissemination beyond personal use, please contact us for broader permission to use these free materials.

Orientation to UWMC for Agency Interpreters

We consider Medical Interpreters to be an integral part of our health care team. Patient care is most successful when you coordinate closely with us and understand the norms in our environment of care. Agency interpreters who accept assignments at UWMC are required to read the orientation and abide by UWMC norms.

Also required before accepting assignments at UWMC:
  • DSHS certification/qualification in medical interpreting and signed DSHS Code of Ethics on file
  • Current infectious disease screening and vaccinations
  • Current Washington State Highway Patrol background check

Required Orientation and Quiz

Read the orientation information. It may be read below OR through this Orientation Document, which provides an easily printable PDF. Quiz instructions are at the bottom of the Orientation.


Thank you for orienting to University of Washington Medical Center. We appreciate your willingness to provide language support to our patients.

This short orientation lays out the best way to get work done at UWMC, and describes the expectations we have of Medical Interpreters working in our organization.

To get credit for having completed this orientation, please copy and paste the quiz at the end of the webpage into a Word document, complete the questions, and deliver the quiz to the agency that you will be working through. You may claim one half hour of paid time for reading the material and turning in the quiz when you submit your first voucher from UWMC. Please provide a copy of the quiz to each agency you work for, but only charge us once. Thank you. 

Parking and Finding your Way

UWMC cares for patients at several sites. Most patient visits are conducted at the main hospital building at 1959 NE Pacific Street and at the Roosevelt Clinic buildings on Roosevelt Way (4225 and 4245 Roosevelt Way 98105). A few visits are conducted at CHDD across the service street behind the hospital, at the Sports Medicine Clinic to the north of the stadium (3950 Montlake Ave), and at the Prosthetics Clinic (501 Eastlake Ave E, Suite 300, Seattle 98109).

Parking is not validated at UWMC. Agency interpreters are requested to use the Triangle Parking Garage across from the main entrance to the hospital, via the valet kiosk in the patient drop-off area in the entrance circle. There is a slightly discounted rate for interpreters at the moment if you park through valet, and the valet parking allows interpreters to get into the hospital quickly. Please wear your badge when parking, as there is construction going on that is putting a squeeze on parking space for patients, and garage attendants must ask all drivers to identify their purpose in parking. (No discounted rate is possible without your interpreter badge.) At Roosevelt Clinic, there is public parking for a fee under both of the buildings, as well as metered parking on surrounding streets.

The main hospital building at 1959 NE Pacific St runs east-west, parallel to Pacific St. The main hospital entrance is on the 3rd floor. There you will find many of the busiest clinics, Information Desk, Pharmacy, Lab, Gift Shop, and Admitting. Within the main hospital building, there are three main patient care areas. The Pacific Tower and Pacific elevators are at the western end, with 8 floors. The Cascade Tower and Cascade elevators are in the middle of the building, also with 8 floors. There is no interconnection between the two towers, so it is important to take the correct elevators. The Surgery Pavilion is at the eastern end of the building, and has three floors.

Interpreter Services is on the 7th floor of the Pacific Tower, East Wing, Room ee745. Interpreters are encouraged to call Interpreter Services for directions to their appointment (598-4425), or to come by to introduce themselves. 

Interpreter Culture and Norms at UWMC

Medical Interpreters at UWMC are part of the care team. This includes interpreters from agencies. Just as with a nurse filling in from an agency, we expect agency interpreters to integrate as completely as possible with the operating environment.

The main expectation is that the interpreter assist the patient in accessing care as fully as possible. The patient’s experience of UWMC goes far beyond the conversation he has with his doctor. We encourage interpreters to be cordial, to support the patient in asking questions of the care team, and to share general information about how the health care system works if asked by the patient. We expect the interpreter to do active problem-solving for the patient if he needs it, even if he only has time to call the Interpreter Services office (598-4425) on behalf of the patient so that we can take over from there.

Specific Language Access Policies

UWMC does not permit family members to act as the interpreter. The agency interpreter must NOT allow himself to be dismissed by the patient, the family, the hospital staff, or the doctor. The interpreter should stand firm. If there is confrontation, the interpreter should call Interpreter Services at 598-4425, and then proceed as directed. In some cases the interpreter will be instructed to stay in the encounter while the family member interprets, and then complete or correct any portions of the communication that were not accurate.

When a patient does not show up by five minutes after his appointment time, the interpreter is expected to ask for the patient’s phone number either from the reception desk or from Interpreter Services (598-4425) and to call the patient at home. If the patient is not coming, the interpreter can assist with setting up a new appointment, and then he should call Interpreter Services (598-4425) to be assigned to other work in his language as needed. He is not to leave the premises while on paid time without clearance from the Interpreter Coordinator.

UWMC makes a strong effort to keep patients from falling out of care due to missed hand-offs within the health care system. Staff interpreters and Interpreter Coordinators stand ready to assist patients to navigate the system. The expectation of agency interpreters is that they let patients know that they can call the Interpreter office (598-4425) for assistance in making connections with any part of the organization.

Professional Guidelines

Agency interpreters are requested to observe the same guidelines as staff interpreters:

Agency photo ID must be worn and visible at all times when on UWMC campus.

Yearly background checks, annual TB tests, certification/qualification or proof of language evaluation, signed DSHS Code of Ethics, and proof of immunity to the major infectious diseases (measles, mumps, rubella, varicella, flu) must be current and on file in the agency in order for the interpreter to accept assignments at UWMC. Documentation of these items must be available immediately from the agency upon request by UWMC.

Infection control is of the highest importance. Interpreters must act to protect patients from infection and to protect themselves from infection. Interpreters should use “gel in, gel out” for every encounter. There is alcohol gel in every waiting room, exam room, procedure room, and inpatient room. In addition, interpreters should read any notice on an inpatient door for special instructions or precautions BEFORE entering the room. Interpreters who have a cold or other infectious disease should not accept an assignment in the cancer areas, in the NICU (Neo-Natal Intensive Care Unit), or Post-Transplant Clinic. Interpreters should be alert to whether other members of the care team are wearing special protective garments or equipment, in which case the interpreter also needs to wear it. As is true of any patient care environment, there should be no eating or drinking except in areas designated for that.

Smoking is prohibited while on UWMC grounds, including outside. Weapons are prohibited inside all UWMC buildings.

Fire alarms that are both audible and visible (siren plus strobe light) indicate that all personnel must vacate that wing immediately. Evacuation may be to wings to the sides or to floors above or below the alarming wing, as well as to outside. If only a strobe light is activated, this indicates that an adjacent wing is in full alarm and that personnel must not enter the wing in full alarm. If you are late or immobilized due to fire alarm, call us so that we can inform the team that is waiting for you.

Interpreters are asked to keep phones and pagers on buzz mode, and to not respond to either one during the encounter. No phone call should take place in the immediate presence of UWMC patient or staff.

Interpreters may leave their coats and umbrellas in the Interpreter office.

UWMC has a dress code for staff, which also pertains to agency interpreters. Shoes must have closed toes and must be stable to walk and stand in. Fingernails must be fairly short and should not have artificial nails attached, to ensure effective hand hygiene. No cologne, perfume, or heavy scent is acceptable. Business casual is the general level of expected dress. Blue jeans, bare midriffs, and see-through clothing are not permitted.


Agency interpreters are an important partner in our care team at UWMC. We encourage agency interpreters to consult with the Interpreter Services Department at any time to solve problems for patients, and to build a fraternal relationship with us.


  1. If you were to encounter a problem in providing service to a patient while at UWMC, who would you contact to help solve the problem?
  2. Staff interpreters and agency interpreters are held to different standards at UWMC, with respect to following infection control guidelines. True or False?
  3. Parking is free for interpreters if they get their ticket validated. True or False?
  4. Neither agency interpreters nor patients are welcome to stop by the Interpreter office. True or False?

Remember to spell out your name and indicate which agency you are submitting your quiz through, if you email us directly ( 

Process for Becoming a Staff Interpreter at UWMC

The UWMC interpreter corps presently includes 24 interpreters who cover 12 languages. We adjust our language mix as necessary to match patient demand. We post open positions on the Employment at the University of Washington site. Harborview Medical Center also posts its open positions on this job site, so pelase check which hospital is hiring. Your are invited to email the Manager with your resume and to inquire about planned hiring for your language group:

Pre-requisites for UWMC staff interpreters include the following:
  • DSHS certification/qualification OR other approved qualification;
  • Significant experience working as a medical interpreter OR equivalent combination of skills, role knowledge, and health care background
  • Proven team skills and customer service orientation

We also value translation and navigation skills, experience working with the community, and clinical training.