Learning that a child has CHD is difficult for every family. This situation can be even more challenging if there is a language barrier that makes it harder to talk with your medical team.

It is the responsibility of a physician’s office and a hospital to provide medical interpreters that will help your family and your medical team communicate effectively. This is very important because you will need to discuss complicated medical issues and decisions that will affect you and your child’s life. A medical interpreter should always translate for you – never ask a family member or friend to do the interpretation.

Every medical provider wants to give you and your child the best care possible. If English is not your primary language, the medical team would like to know which language you prefer to speak so they can provide a medical interpreter.

It is very helpful for your physicians to know that you need an interpreter before your appointment so that your language needs can be accommodated. Your medical team must be able to communicate well with you so you can be a strong member of the team caring for your child.

Please feel comfortable asking for a medical interpreter at all times on your CHD care journey. Every effort will be made to provide you with an interpreter in your preferred language.

The Fundamentals of Working With an Interpreter

Who Can Have an Interpreter

Any person – no matter their legal status in the U.S. – can have an interpreter. It is a legal right. You will not be charged a fee for the interpreter.

When You Can Get an Interpreter

You may request an interpreter at any time before and during a clinical visit, in the hospital (no matter what time of the day or night), or to help translate paperwork. This includes regular outpatient provider visits, a fetal echocardiogram and other tests, your baby’s delivery, rounds at the hospital, and before and after your child’s surgery.

Ask for What You Need

Do not be afraid to say what you need. It is not a problem or an inconvenience to request an interpreter any time you want one. It’s okay if it takes longer to complete a visit when you have an interpreter. Your physician wants you to receive medical information in the language you are most comfortable with.

Ask Why Until You Understand

Sometimes you don’t understand an explanation the first time, or you need to hear it again. It is okay to ask for more information until you comprehend. This is normal. Your medical professionals and interpreters understand that you will have questions and need them to be answered to best care for your child.

PARENT TIPConnect With Other Families

Many parents benefit from connecting with other families who have children with heart problems because they can talk about their similar experiences. CHD affects babies and children across the world. There are social networking and online support groups for many nationalities and languages, but it may be challenging to find these resources in your native language. Ask your hospital or clinic social worker if they can help you meet other CHD families who speak your language so you can build connections and a support network.


When you make an appointment, the person who talks with you on the phone will probably realize that your family needs an interpreter. They usually put this information in your medical record, so that an interpreter will be arranged for the first appointment at the clinic and for any future appointments. Be sure to talk with them if you have any problems and be clear about your preferred language.

Language preferences are usually part of your medical record, so informing one physician will help inform others inside that same clinic. However, the need for a translator can be missed. It is a good idea to remind the clinic that you request an interpreter for each visit, especially if the physicians are not in the same clinic or hospital system.

It is your medical professional’s responsibility to give you information in the language you need. If you receive medical papers in English at a hospital or physician’s office, you can ask for those materials to be translated into your native language. If it is not possible for them to translate the papers, you are encouraged to ask the physician for a verbal interpretation of the information on the papers.

Each clinic and hospital is different. Some provide an in-person translator who will attend the appointment or be there with you to explain a surgery, while others connect you with a translator on a computer or telephone. Please ask when you make the first visit.

While phone interpreters (or iPAD video interpreters) should be available on very short notice, it can take time to set up an in-person interpreter. If you are able to tell the clinic staff when you set up the appointment – or a few days before the visit – it will help them to arrange an in-person interpreter if possible.

If you call the hospital’s general phone number for an after-hours problem, tell the operator “I need an interpreter in (your language).” They should be able to connect you with a phone interpreter.

If you are not 100% fluent in English, please let your child’s medical team know so that they can request an interpreter for you. You should be able to focus on your child’s care without needing to worry about language that you may not fully understand.

It is best not to rely on family members for interpretation. Your care team can provide a professional medical interpreter so that your family members can listen and help you without needing to translate.