Medical interpreters offer language-translation services to patients who lack sufficient English-speaking skills to effectively communicate with doctors and other medical personnel, and they also translate English to other languages to help medical professionals communicate with non-English speaking patients. They focus primarily on translating speech, but may also translate written medical documents to and from English on occasion. With more immigrants and refugees coming from other countries to the United States, medical interpreters are increasingly important for communicating health-related information in medical settings.
Those who enter the field of medical interpretation must be fluent in a foreign language in order to facilitate necessary communication between patients, doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals. To ensure this, most medical interpreters have bachelor’s degrees in one or more foreign languages or interpretation, while others have lower degrees or have successfully completed a medical interpretation certificate program. The ability to employ this skill and communicate effectively in English and another language, both in speech and writing, is the goal of this position, and education in medical terminology is also highly beneficial. Although further medical training is also useful, it is not necessarily required for the position.
In most cases, medical interpreters work indoors in hospitals, doctors' offices, and similar settings, and hours often depend on the employer’s needs. At times, medical interpreters may work off-site and visit community centers and other locations where their skills are needed, and some of these locations may be outdoors, especially when working with patients who are unlikely or unable to reach a clinic or other indoor destination, which is especially true in disaster situations.
Medical Interpreter Tasks
Interpret accurately and directly given the idiomatic differences of languages.
Interpret information regarding the patient's and family's medical needs including consent for treatment, history and physical assessment, and more.
Ensure the patient and the healthcare provider understand the questions, answers, and instructions transmitted by the speaker.
Respond to requests for interpretation and translation services in the health care setting.
Assist health care providers in understanding patient's culture as it relates to health service interaction.