3 Signs of a Good Medical Interpreter you may not know

When you or a family member is ill, you don’t want to go to a subpar hospital or doctor.  If you or a family member is ill and needs interpretation, then it’s equally important to have a great medical interpreter.  Having good communication with your medical caregivers means you can participate more fully in your treatment and understand care instructions better.  You can also ensure that your medical history, current life circumstances, and anything else that may affect treatment is properly communicated and considered.  So how do you ensure that you pick a high quality medical interpreter for your needs?  Here are 3 signs that you can trust the professional you’ve hired.


1. Your medical interpreter is a good listener

You need your medical interpreter to be great at hearing you.  That means they’re patient and never interrupt.  Good medical interpreters with excellent listening skills will also have no trouble patiently repeating back to you what they hear you or your caregivers say.  They may even do it as a habit, ensuring they completely understand your points.  This isn’t always a skill that’s taught in medical interpreter courses.  In fact, it’s more like a personal quality.  Either somebody is good at active listening, or they’re not!


medical interpreter in a hospital2. Your medical interpreter is culturally sensitive.

Even if your medical interpreter has gone to the best Medical Interpreter Certificate Training course and kept their skills fresh with the best medical interpreter training, they can still be terrible at their jobs.  Bad medical interpreters lack cultural awareness.  Because culture shapes so much of how we experience the world, it will certainly affect the way both patients and medical providers experience medical challenges and illnesses.  For instance, in some cultures, patients see medical treatment as bound up with spirituality.  In other cultures, patients are less trusting of doctors.  A culturally-savvy medical interpreter will already know any factors like this and help to gracefully bridge the divide between the medical care provider and patient/their family.


3. Your medical interpreter is emotionally resilient and even-keeled under pressure

Again, this is something that isn’t really taught in medical interpretation programs.  A Medical Interpreting Certification will give professionals the basic communication skills and medical knowledge base to bridge the gap between patient and caregiver.  However, it can’t prepare them emotionally for how taxing these situations can be.  If the patient and/or their family are receiving particularly difficult news, or perhaps the patient is in extreme pain, emotions may be running high.  The doctor or patient may even, unfortunately, take some of this frustration out on the interpreter!  A good medical interpreter will stay calm and focus on their job.  They can do this even if people are yelling at them or they feel empathy for the patient and/or their loved ones.    A good medical interpreter will separate the emotion from their goal: creating the best communication possible between the patient and medical caregiver.

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Yana Fisher

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