Safety net dental clinics typically serve diverse populations. Clinic staff must provide services in a manner that is culturally and linguistically appropriate and must offer interpretation services when English is not a patient’s first language. Clinics should avoid using children, other family members, relatives, friends, or bilingual staff as interpreters unless there is knowledge of their interpreter skills, their understanding of the interpreter’s role and ethics, and their familiarity with medical and dental terminology. The nature of the information to be shared may, by itself, preclude using these individuals. Instead, persons who have gone through a formal training program for interpreters should be used. It is important to verify that interpreters have proper credentials and training. Although it is best to have interpreters on the clinic’s staff, they also can be requested on an hourly basis from a local agency. A well-trained individual can not only work as a medical and dental interpreter but also conduct in-service training for staff to increase sensitivity to the cultures you are serving. In some areas of the country, it may be difficult to find trained interpreters who are available to your clinic.
The Rehabilitation Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, and Section 1557 of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, and the regulations pertaining to these three laws, provide guidance about the requirements that we provide reasonable accommodations when serving patients with disabilities.