Becoming a Medical Interpreter in Texas

Medical interpreting is one of the careers that will grow the fastest in the next decade. The US Bureau of Labor predicts a 19% growth rate from 2018 to 2028

The need for medical interpreters is most acute in states with a large Hispanic population, like Texas. According to Pew Research Center, 39% of the population in Texas is Hispanic (10.4 million people) and, of those, about 43% are foreign-born (that’s over 4 million for whom English is a second language). In Houston alone, 1.6 million people require interpretation services in a healthcare setting.

In the past, people who didn’t speak English well would bring a friend or even a young child to a doctor’s appointment, so they could help them communicate with an English-speaking doctor. However, these helpers often didn’t have the necessary knowledge of medical terms or situations to interpret the conversation accurately. Research has shown that errors in interpretation can bring about dire consequences for patients’ health, such as misdiagnosis or inadequate treatment.

Most healthcare centers and providers are now aware that a trained medical interpreter is crucial to provide good care to Limited English Patients (LEP). Many hospitals and doctors’ offices prefer certified medical interpreters, and insurance companies usually demand it for workers’ compensation cases. Being a trained and certified medical interpreter makes you more marketable and more likely to find steady work.

Increasing the number of medical interpreters in Texas not only will benefit the millions of Limited English Patients who live in this state, but also provide a lucrative career to the interpreters themselves. According to the US Bureau of Labor, the annual mean wage for a medical interpreter in Texas is $58,650. As a trained and certified medical interpreter, you will be well positioned to earn on the top range. 

Requirements to be certified as a medical interpreter

These are the minimum requirements to become a certified Spanish medical interpreter:

  • You need to be at least 18 years old.
  • You need to have a GED diploma or the equivalent.
  • You need to be proficient in both English and Spanish, as well as in the cultural nuances of both languages.
  • You need to complete a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreter training.
  • Texas does not have a state certification for medical interpreters. Therefore, you need to pass an examination from one of the two national organizations that certify medical interpreters: the CCHI (Certification Commission of Healthcare Interpreters) or the NCIHC (National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare).

What 40 hours of medical interpreter training will teach you

The 40 mandatory hours of training to become a certified interpreter in the medical field teach you much more than medical terminology. 

You will learn the Code of Ethics and professional behavior that rule the interpreter’s performance during a medical encounter. You will also learn the Standards of Practice for medical interpretation. These are guidelines that cover how to interpret accurately, neutrally, and respectfully. 

The training course will teach you crucial medical terminology, as well as how to work with the many variables that exist in the Spanish language. Furthermore, you will practice consecutive interpretation, simultaneous interpretation, and sight translation, because you will often need to read and translate medical forms for a patient.

Where to find a medical interpretation training program to practice in Texas

As you know, you cannot take the certification exams until you have proof that you took 40 hours of medical interpreter training from a school that is approved by CCHI or NCIHC. 

There are several options available to complete this training. 

A very easy and convenient option is to take interpreter classes online. (Unless you live in a big city and have a reliable mode of transportation, it can be hard to find live courses for Spanish medical interpreters.)

With an online training program, you can take classes from your own living room and at your own pace. Since you’re alone with the course and your headphones, you can concentrate well and learn better. Online courses for medical interpreters are very helpful for people who have busy schedules and need to fit the classes during evenings, weekends, long commutes, or in between other activities. They are also usually more affordable than in-person classes. 

The Medical Interpreting Training School or MITS is an excellent online course for medical Spanish interpreters. It offers language-specific medical interpreting courses in Spanish as well as non-language specific medical interpreting courses. Students who have taken MITS’ online classes mention that they are clear and well organized, with great examples and practice exercises, and that the course helped them pass their certification exam on the first try. (Read more testimonies).

If you prefer to take classes in person and live in a big city in Texas, you can try a whole semester course at the University of Texas in Austin or Houston, or in smaller colleges in a few cities in Texas. 

If you want to complete the 40 hours in a hurry, you have a whole spare week to dedicate to it, and you live in Houston or Austin, you can take a boot camp for medical interpreting training, a 5-day course with 8-hours of classes from Monday to Friday.

Whatever option you choose to train as a medical interpreter and become certified, you will feel proud to facilitate accurate and professional communication between healthcare providers and Limited English Patients, contributing to better care and health outcomes.

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