The Importance of Medical Interpreters

By Atlas LS

It is one thing to be fluent in multiple languages and to have the ability to accurately interpret between the two.  But just as important, the interpreter must fully understand the material that is being presented.  This is even more important in the specialized field of medical interpretation.

Medical interpreters are used in hospitals, doctor’s offices, courts, conferences and any other medical area where the patient or audience does not speak the native language of the medical staff.  A medical interpreter’s responsibilities are to interpret/translate information from the medical staff to the patient.  In addition, if the patient has any questions or concerns, a reverse interpretation is required so doctors and nurses can properly address the patents symptoms, concerns or questions.

Obviously, it is critical that the interpreter fully understand a vast amount of medical terminology in both languages.  It is critical that the interpretations be as accurate as possible so that the patient receives the proper care.

The last thing you want is an interpreter that does not understand medical terminology.  In that case, problems can arise within the communication process between all involved.  When time is critical, you don’t want your interpreter to slow down the treatment process as they try to use the proper terminology or stop to research it.

Even highly experienced medical interpreters encounter difficult situations.  Last week we encountered a difficult request, a large medical facility here in the Midwest had a client from Iraq who was the primary care giver for an elderly gentleman.  The care giver only signed Iraqi sign language and was completely deaf.  Our work flow was:

English -> American Sign Language -> Certified Deaf Interpreter (CDI) -> the Iraqi care giver then back again.

Although we prepare for all situations, encounters such as these that keep our work load fun and challenging.  The medical appointment went every well and that is due to the professionalism and experience of the interpreters that worked on this case.  If they had only limited medical knowledge or were inexperienced, the relay of the information to the caregiver would have been very difficult to convey.

At Atlas Language Services, we only hire the most qualified health care interpreters that have specialized educations in the field of medical interpretation.  While it is not necessary, Atlas looks to hire interpreters that come from schools that offer specialized medical interpretation certificate programs to insure you have the best interpreter to meet all your medical interpretation and translation needs.