This young profession has been shown in multiple studies to have a positive impact on medical care for patients who have English as a second language. Medical interpreters are those who are well-versed in general medicine and can orally translate from one language to another diagnosis, treatment, prognosis, etc.
When we are sick, most of us want to be told in general terms what is wrong and how to fix it. Medical terminology is a different language even for native English speakers, so it’s even more difficult for those with limited English proficiency. Sometimes, bringing a friend or family member to the office or hospital with you may not be the best idea. Many time the diagnosis and treatment plans are complicated for a layperson to interpret accurately; therefore the assistance of a qualified medical interpreter is vital.
The Difference Between Interpretation and Translation
Medical interpreters are different from translators because they focus more on spoken word, rather than written words like pamphlets and hand-outs. Interpretation requires not only a general understanding of medicine but also extreme attention to detail and a thorough understanding of colloquialism in both cultures.
Becoming a Medical Interpreter
To be a medical or healthcare interpreter, you will need to be fully bilingual. You don’t need to have to be a native speaker of both languages, but most interpreters have very advanced in their oral proficiency. Being a medical interpreter again means that you can accurately and orally translate and relay not only facts but also cultural nuances and body language between patients and caregivers.
Getting Certified as a Medical Interpreter
Becoming a medical interpreter, you will need to complete a training program that is specific to this type of work, in addition to formal field training. After completing a minimum of 40 hours of medical interpreting training, you can apply to take the certification exam to any of the two most reputable certifying entities such as CCHI (Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters) and the National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters.
Prerequisites for Medical Interpretation Training
- Must be at least 18 years of age.
- Must be fluent in more than one language.
- Must have at least a GED or high school diploma
What does this Training Program Include?
This intensive 40-hr. Training course that includes:
- Review of basic interpreting skills and techniques
- Sight translation
- Protocols and ethics
- Understanding cultural aspects in healthcare interpretation
- Review of the healthcare field in both conservative and traditional medicine
- Listening skills and empathy
- Simultaneous interpreting
- Consecutive interpreting
Benefits of Becoming a Medical Interpreter
Interpreting for patients and healthcare providers is one of the most positive innovative measures in healthcare communication, especially with a growing culture of diversity. This is a career that you can feel good about doing. You will provide empathetic support to patients who would otherwise feel in a state of utter despair and confusion because of improper or inaccurate communication.
Interpreters specializing in healthcare interpreter have a wide range of benefits, including, but not limited to:
- The prestige of having a certification that is demanding.
- Professional growth and higher pay with more experience
- Personal pride in being able to help in a way most people cannot
- Greater employment opportunities because your certification and credentials cross state lines
- Once you obtain your certification, other facilities will honor your credentials and won’t test you again
- You help reduce the chance of misdiagnosis
- You increase patient/provider satisfaction
- You assist in improving health outcomes
- You help facilities reduce their legal risks
- You help patients minimize the costs of health care by getting it right the first time.