Utilizing Medical Interpreters in Your Hospital


The United States as a melting pot of cultures is a tired but true metaphor. As the population of non-English-speaking residents has increased in recent years, the need for medical interpreters in hospitals has likewise grown. Medical interpreters act as language conduits, translating between doctor and patient and thus overcoming the language barrier between them. This is an incredibly crucial task, as it enables physicians to do their job without having to worry about possible mis-communications that might result in medical mistakes. Utilizing a medical translator makes it easier for hospitals to attract and properly care for a wider range of international patients.

What Hospitals Should Look For

A lot of great interpreters working in the field today do not have a college degree. The main thing that hospitals should look for when hiring an interpreter is not their level of education but whether or not they can speak and write both English and the foreign language(s) fluently. They must be able to translate clearly both simple and complex ideas from one language to the other. Much of this ability comes simply from experience and can only be measured properly through the interview process.

Good medical interpreters must have a good knowledge of medical terminology and must be acquainted with the dynamics inherent in the patient-doctor relationship. There are some colleges and universities that offer certification programs for medical interpreters. These are not required for the job, but some employers feel more comfortable if they see that the potential employee has put in the effort to receive some professional training in the field. There are also interpreter agencies, which some hospitals prefer because it takes care of the interviewing process for them.

The main thing to look for in an medical interpreter, however, is once again whether or not they can think quickly and creatively to convey complex ideas and messages as accurately as possible, as they’ll be acting as the voice of both the physician and the patient.

The Job

As the title implies, a medical interpreter does not simply translate the words spoken by a doctor or patient. An interpreter must be able to find the right way of conveying the meaning, or the essence of what the patient or doctor is trying to get across to the other party.

An interpreter is there in the exam room with the patient. He helps the physician understand the personal and medical history of a patient as it becomes relevant, and he helps the patient understand the technical details that the physician is trying to convey.

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This entry was posted on Wednesday, August 19th, 2009 at 8:44 am and is filed under Medical News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

3 Responses to “Utilizing Medical Interpreters in Your Hospital”

  1. Spanish Interpreter Says:

    As with any field, not just medical, INTERPRETERS need to be more than just people who speak two languages. They need to understand both cultures, and be able to translate not just the words but also the meaning behind the words.

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