3 Life Saving Benefits of Medical Interpreter Training
The immense need for professional medical interpreting in hospitals and medical centers in the U.S. has only recently begun to be appreciated. However, the fact remains that medical interpreters have been key assets in getting people the necessary healthcare they need in order to survive for a long time.
One of the key pieces of advice often given to medical centers such as hospitals and health clinics is to hire professional medical interpreters to perform this life saving task. The reason being that the knowledge and skills needed to accurately interpret for a patient in a life threatening situation are not ones often possessed by untrained, native speakers - especially if they are relatives of the patient.
Why is There a Need for Trained Medical Interpreters?
Imagine you are a nurse in a busy emergency room, practically overflowing with patients needing almost immediate assistance. All of a sudden a Russian woman and her husband come in, both speak little English, but from the gestures of the man it seems he’s suffering the pre-symptoms of a heart attack. Not long after a Spanish woman is brought in – she’s clearly in immense pain, but she doesn’t speak English and you can’t be sure what’s wrong. To top it all off, a Chinese family comes in with a baby – the husband speaks broken English, and he tells you that something isn’t right with the child.
What would you do? You don’t speak Russian, Spanish or Chinese, and anyone else on your team who might is too busy attending to other patients. You certainly can’t ask the family members of any of the patients, as they are in too much of an emotional state to provide neutral dialogue, even if they did speak fluent English. It is in such cases that a professional with a medical interpreter certificate would be needed, for three key reasons:
- Certified medical interpreters are fluent in English and the target language - important to ensure that no misunderstandings take place when describing patient symptoms that could cost a life, even if colloquial or slang terms are used.
- Certified medical interpreters have undergone medical interpreter training – this training has taught them medical terminology and the proper way to administer interpreting services.
- A professional with a medical interpreter certificate has experience – this means not only are they fluent in medical terminology, but they know how to perform and stay calm under pressure such as in an emergency room.
These three points are extremely important to ensure proper linguistic services for patients at high medical risk – something that could mean the difference between life and death.
English Medical Interpreters around the World
Not only do health centers in the U.S. have need of professionals holding a medical interpreter certificate, but hospitals and clinics around the world need certified medical interpreters who can interpret in to and from English. There are many instances where the need of medical interpreters is emphasized abroad, such as with organizations like the Peace Corps, that provides (among other things) health services, awareness and outreach in countries around the world, and other volunteer medical programs and health clinics. In these situations, medical interpreters are necessary to bridge the gap between patients who speak the native language, and volunteer doctors or nurses who may only speak English.
As someone looking to become a medical interpreter, there are countless ways in which you can apply your skills both in the United States and abroad.
Fact: Trained Medical Interpreters Can Save Lives
Any doctor, nurse or person who has spent extensive time in the medical setting will know that clarity and understanding is key when diagnosing and helping patients. There are countless examples of disastrous hospital visits where serious conditions weren’t treated properly because medical staff and patients couldn’t understand each other.
As a holder of a medical interpreter certificate, you are demonstrating the necessary knowledge and skillset that enables you to interpret well for patients, something ad-hoc interpreters don’t have. Hospitals have begun to focus more attention on professionals; turning to solutions such as telephonic medical interpreting demonstrates this. However, as outlined by an NPR article – sometimes telephonic interpreters aren’t even certified, again putting medical staff and patients at risk of unqualified language services, and at times patients aren’t able to use the services well.
One last important thing to note – in a 2012 study done by the American College of Emergency Physicians, it was found that ad hoc interpreters had a 22% error rate in presenting information, professional interpreters a 12% error rate, and interpreters with 100 plus hours of training? 2%.
If that doesn’t prove the necessity of trained and certified medical interpreters, we’re not sure what will.
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