5 Must-Have Skills for a Medical Interpreter

Medical interpretation and translation are important and essential parts of the medical service. As part of providing accurate interpretation services, medical interpreters help make communication with the patient easy. Since they work for many types of medical facilities, they are required to have a skill set that would qualify them as expert interpreters. 

A medical interpreter is responsible for interacting and communicating with the medical staff, physicians, rehabilitation facilities, and health clinics. Most importantly, they provide interpretation services to patients who do not speak the language of the medical staff or the doctors. Although some of these interpreters are employed by agencies providing interpretation services, others operate on their own individual basis. Nonetheless, an interpreter needs to be skilled enough to deliver expert interpretation services that a hospital can avail in addition to employing professional hospital translation services.

Here are 5 must-have skills for a medical interpreter:

1. Knowledge of medical terminology

Medical interpretation may be a part of providing translation services for hospitals, but it is not an easy task. It requires extensive and deep knowledge of medical terminology in both the source and the target language. Expert medical interpretation, if done correctly, can contribute to HIPAA compliant translation services that a translation agency provides. 

A healthcare interpreter who works in a specialized area requires an even deeper knowledge of medical terms. This is because they may need to communicate this complex information to patients. Consequently, these specialized interpreters often need to undergo extensive training to ensure error-free interpretation services. To make sure an interpreter has the required medical knowledge, it is preferable to choose an interpreter with a medical degree. 

2. Competence in cultural knowledge

A medical interpreter does not only need to know medical terms and words. Cultural awareness is also a must-have skill that an interpreter must possess. Many HIPAA-compliant translation provider companies hire interpreters without judging their cultural knowledge. This makes it difficult to deliver medical assistance to patients belonging to other cultures.

An interpreter who understands the cultural differences between different countries will be in a better position to provide quality interpretation services. In case a sensitive issue arises, such an interpreter can handle the situation without any hassle. He will also be able to convey the doctor’s message to the patient without sounding offensive.

3. Ethical Practices

When a doctor seeks interpretation services from a certified hospital translation service provider, he expects that the ethical standards will be upheld. Special codes of conduct and ethics are put in place to ensure that an interpreter follows them in his work. These codes of ethics ensure an interpreter is impartial and unbiased toward the patient. Following these codes of ethics, he must also abide by rules such as not disclosing patient information to anyone and acting impartially during interpretation sessions. A failure to abide by this code of ethics may lead to suspension or termination of interpretation services. 

4. Linguistic proficiency

Proficiency in language skills is probably the most important skill that an interpreter must possess. To deliver professional interpretation and translation services for hospitals, an interpreter must be proficient in multiple languages. Suppose you have a dental clinic and most of your patients speak Chinese. You would want to hire an interpreter who can both speak and understand Chinese so that dental procedures can become easy. In addition, an interpreter who is proficient in more than one language would communicate the medical terms to patients more clearly. It would also make it easier for patients to understand the doctor’s instructions and diagnosis. 

5. Empathy and Patience

An interpretation service is not just about delivering interpretation and relaying information. It also requires cultural empathy and patience which is an integral part of the medical service. An empathetic interpreter would not only communicate the diagnosis by a doctor, but he would also choose terms that do not cause any offense. Furthermore, patience will be required to make sure no small detail is missed out. If an interpreter is in a hurry and omits any detail during interpretation, it could result in dire consequences. This is the reason why medical institutes encourage interpretation from people who are consistent and take their time to understand the information fully before communicating it to the patient. 

Professional Abilities Required in a Medical Interpreter

 Other than having the skills mentioned above, medical interpreters must also possess these professional abilities:

  • A degree or a diploma in medicine or pharmacy
  • Ability to understand complex medical terminology
  • Fluency in multiple languages
  • Ability to organize information and communicate it 
  • Ability to relate to the patient on a deep mental level and to convey information seamlessly
  • Ability to interact and interpret without any bias or pressure
  • Ability to stay calm and composed during sessions
  • Ability to work outside normal working hours in case of emergency

Key Takeaway

Interpretation services for the medical industry are quite different from traditional services such as document translation services for hospitals. A medical interpreter needs to possess relevant medical knowledge as well as linguistic competency in order to ensure quality interpretation services. Moreover, since these medical interpretation services are sensitive in nature, a medical interpreter needs to be patient, empathic, and reliable so that the correct information is exchanged between the patient and the doctor.

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