As a medical interpreter, you are often the only bridge between non-native speaking patients and the medical staff treating them. The medical field has been one of only a few to consistently expand in the last few decades. You are part of an ever-growing subset of the medical profession, and the need for qualified medical interpreters will only continue to grow as people migrate around the globe.
In order to stay current in this ever-expanding field, you will need to continue your education beyond the basic entry-level. In addition to staying involved in professional development, continuing your education will help you to stay up to date on the latest medical terminology and how it translates to the language you will be interpreting for. Many new procedures, unknown just a few years ago, are commonplace today; as a medical interpreter, you must stay abreast of these changes in medicine.
If you are a Certified Medical Interpreter, CMI, you are required to complete three units of continuing education every five years. These Continuing Educational Units, or CEUs, equal approximately 30 contact hours of approved training. If you hold certification by the Commission for Healthcare Interpreters, CCHI, you are required to complete 16 hours of continuing education every 2 years. You can do this by taking online courses, in-person classes, or attending conferences.
Whether you only engage in the number of hours of continuing education for medical interpreters that you need or you go beyond that basic requirement to maintain your certification, choosing to continue your education will prevent the erosion of your interpreting skills. We know that in order to maintain language skills, you need to be conversing in the language daily. If you find that you are not getting daily practice, either in your medical interpreting job or socially, you may find continuing education especially helpful to prevent your skills from getting rusty. When you interpret, you want to be able to do so with precision and clarity.
By continuing your education, you will be able to achieve better outcomes for the patients you serve. The more you know about interpreting in various medical specialties, the more adept you will be to assist patients and their families. The better you understand the culture of the native speakers of the language you are interpreting for, the more prepared you will be to handle any cultural barriers that come up. The more you understand about human psychology, the more effective you will be as an interpreter. Remember, you’re not just translating a language, but also compassion and care.