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What is a Medical Interpreter?

The official role of the medical interpreter…

It is very important that any doctor has one of them.

But what is a medical interpreter? This is a professional who has advanced language skills and specialized training to facilitate communication between doctors and patients who speak different languages. It’s main function is to translate medical information accurately and completely, thus allowing the patient to understand diagnoses, treatments, procedures and medical recommendations.

Facilitate patient-physician communication

Having these professionals on call is crucial to helping patients with limited English skills. Language barriers can significantly hinder communication between patients and healthcare providers, resulting in misinterpretations, misunderstandings, and potentially dangerous medical errors.

Medical interpreters are specially trained professionals who facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers, ensuring accurate and culturally sensitive communication.

As a result, these interpreters are always more suitable than an untrained person who only speaks the necessary language. (Another common situation, which you should avoid; when they use a child or family member with some knowledge of English as an intermediary.)

Medical knowledge and treatment plans

This is particularly important in healthcare settings where understanding medical history, procedures, and treatment plans can be critical for accurate diagnosis and treatment. Moreover, providing access to medical interpreters shows respect for the patients‘ cultural and linguistic diversity and can lead to better health outcomes.

They not only deal with these terms, but also know how to handle everything from doctor-patient privacy to family interactions. Even health professionals who possess language skills often cannot simplify concepts as effectively for laypeople crossing linguistic boundaries.

Legal and ethical implications

And beyond conveying information and reassuring patients in a stressful situation, there are legal and ethical implications. Healthcare providers are at risk of malpractice lawsuits; or other problems when your patients don’t know what’s going on. Therefore, the benefit of hiring a qualified one far outweighs the cost that could result from not having one.

What Is a Medical Interpreter

…and everything else they do

On paper, the goal of a language facilitator is to understand each other as fully as possible. But for patients with limited English, the specialist’s environment can be doubly terrifying.

Therefore, having an interpreter can reassure patients; and convey the information and questions accurately. This builds trust between the professional and the patient, especially if there are other cultural issues that may cause discomfort. It is important to extend this trust to the mediators.

The services of a medical interpreter can become an essential and ongoing part of the care of these patients; particularly in rarer languages where the pool of professionals is smaller.

Additionally, helping to create this supportive creates a safer environment with patients, so they understand what is happening. In turn, doctors are confident that they can provide the most appropriate care.

How to become a medical interpreter?

Although having experience in biological sciences is useful to become one of them, it is not completely essential. (After all, the patients you interpret will usually need things explained to them in non-technical terms.)

Institutions such as the National Board of Certified Medical Interpreters (NBCMI) and the Commission on Certifications for Healthcare Providers (CCHI) offer standard credentials. You can learn more about these institutions and the process for obtaining their license in the publication ‘Path to National Medical Interpreter Certification’.

In addition to demonstrating adequate oral and written language skills in both languages, future mediators must also complete a medical interpretation course. A basic course based on English terms and the target language.

Global Arena can help you become a medical interperter

Some programs, such as Global Arena’s Bridging the Gap, go further by addressing cultural and legal issues that may arise and offering units for specialized areas of medicine. This knowledge is what makes qualified interpreters a smarter choice than family or community members who accompany visits.

But while licenses are essential; the strongest test of medical interpreting skill is gaining practical experience. Many interpreters start by registering on a freelancing website; before joining the provider network of a language service provider (LSP).

For hospitals and other healthcare providers, an LSP with a deep understanding of medical interpretation can save a lot of time, money and energy.

Then those who prove themselves on the job can expect repeat calls and an increasing level of experience. Arriving at appointments on time and maintaining a neutral demeanor are the best ways to maintain a good LSP-interpreter relationship.

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4 Responses

  1. Medical Interpretation can be very helpful at times. It helps in connecting doctors and patients in a very easy way. Thanks for sharing such nice information.

    1. Thank you Alex for your thoughtful comment! Indeed, Medical Interpreters are instrumental in situations when Doctors and Patients require that each party fully understands what is communicated.

  2. I am a retired Social Worker, looking for a meaningful
    The Medical Interpreting Course would be ideal for me. I do have a Caribbean/ American background which would enhance my ability to do well in this school of learning.

    1. Hello! We still have a few spots for our November Bridging the Gap Medical interpreting program. It is delivered online and might be a good fit for your needs. If interested, please register here.


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