What Traits Should You Look for in a Medical Interpreter?

A medical interpreter never knows what the day will bring. In fact, in the medical interpreting industry, the only thing that is certain is uncertainty. To prepare people for this daunting task, medical interpreter training instructs people on how to translate medical terminology from a place of cultural sensitivity. For those looking to become an interpreter, it is worth asking what traits make a person well-suited for this role.

Medical Interpreters Thrive Under Pressure

Medical interpreters make sense of complex ideas, articulating them in a relatively short span of time. They do so in a high-pressure environment where complications can arise at a moment’s notice. In the back-and-forth between medical caregiver and patient, a medical interpreter needs to see things from the point of view of the doctor as well as the patient and advocate for both. This dynamic thought process requires discipline, of course, but also the ability to think on one’s feet. That is why the one thing that people with a medical interpreter job have in common is that they are the kind of people who run towards a challenge.

Medical Interpreters Adapt Language to Fit their Audience

When it comes down to it, medical interpreters are negotiators. They negotiate ideas and must be able to do so in both a low and high register. In order to attain a medical interpreter certification, students study medical terminology. After amassing a serviceable understanding of medicine, an interpreter then learns how to properly convey ideas to someone that does not have their same intensive education. An additional responsibility of a medical interpreter is to explain the healthcare system to patients. This aspect of interpreting is easily overlooked, but no less important to people who are unfamiliar with the culture of the United States. Whatever the circumstances, medical interpreting is about ensuring that critical information reaches patients loud and clear.

Medical Interpreters are the Voice of Patients  


Above all else, medical interpreting is a valuable but often overlooked safety net. It provides protection for people when they are not operating at their best. Although a medical interpreter and patient start out as strangers, that relationship develops as it is put to the test on a patient’s road to recovery. In the age of the coronavirus, this job takes on a new dimension. Now, hospitals have implemented remote interpreting in order to ensure the wellbeing of their patients. When a patient’s health, well-being or dignity is at risk, a medical interpreter is there to redirect the conversation.

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Yana Fisher

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