Medical Interpreting Classes to Prevent Halloween Horror Stories

Medical interpreting classes: to enroll or not to enroll? This decision, especially for someone with a bilingual background and aging loved ones, becomes more relevant with each passing year. The more we age, the more medical attention is required which ends up costing more and more money. It is understandable why some people may ask an untrained friend or family member to interpret, but the cost of doing so could potentially be fatal.

A Medical Interpreter Course Might Have Prevented These Family Tragedies

  • When a 9 year-old Vietnamese patient was admitted to the hospital, she had to interpret her own condition to her parents and doctor. Her parents only spoke Vietnamese and her doctor only spoke English. Although she was given prescription drugs for her ailment, the label was not translated to Vietnamese. When the drugs ultimately caused a reaction and she collapsed, her 16 year-old brother desperately tried explaining to the doctors and parents what was happening to his sister. Ultimately ending in a tragedy, he was unsuccessful and the family was compensated after suing the hospital.
  • A 17-year-old Taiwanese girl was admitted to the emergency room after being hit in the head with a tennis racquet. Although the accident resulted in a brain abscess, she amazingly still managed to interpret her own condition to her non-English speaking parents. She died while communicating her own respiratory arrest.

These families have been tragically torn apart by loss. Their stories should caution others to always use an interpreter while seeking medical assistance; during emergencies or otherwise. If there was adequate access to a certified medical interpreter as required by law, or if someone had taken a medical interpreting course - maybe things could have turned out differently for them. While we will never truly know if those lives would have been saved, having a medical interpreter present certainly would have helped.

One of the most compelling lessons to take away from either case is that relying on family members- especially children- can lead to long lasting emotional trauma. The medical community frequently uses terms and words that most children have never heard before. Yet they are still being asked to translate their parents diagnoses and even their own, every single day. Adults get things wrong too, and worse, try to minimize or soften what is being said for religious or cultural reasons. Medical interpreters themselves frequently report struggling with the emotional toll that comes along with the job and most of the time they are working with complete strangers. This is all to say that it's far better to have a trained professional- and more importantly a stranger- take on the task of delivering devastating news, and leaving friends or family members to provide emotional support.

Hospitals Need More In-Person Medical Interpreters On Staff

Eleven years ago, the Affordable Care Act greatly expanded the materials that hospitals are required to translate for Limited English Proficiency (LEP) individuals. More than a decade later, it still hasn't done enough in that regard. Many hospitals rely on remote interpreting services conducted over the phone. Although working at a distance increases the amount of work each interpreter can take on, there are some pretty big pitfalls to it. Elderly patients who are hard of hearing especially those with dementia, frequently get confused and don't know what is going on during appointments. If an interpreter can't see what the patient is doing, and the patient cannot understand what is being said, the job becomes much more difficult and medical mistakes become more frequent.

Benefits of Enrolling in an Online Medical Interpreting Class

Students who complete our medical interpreting online course, and then go on to get further certification in interpreting ensure accuracy for clients and help avoid fatal mistakes. Phone and video interpreting will continue to be necessary services as we have seen during the COVID-19 pandemic. However, it is clear that in-person interpreters make the biggest difference especially during medical emergencies. Even if you are just a bilingual person intending on interpreting for a friend or family member, enrolling in our medical interpreting online class can help save the life of your loved one. Our class is offered in SpanishPortugueseArabicRussianChineseHaitian Creole or Vietnamese languages.

Get the necessary online interpreter training in order to become a competent professional interpreter. Register now for one of our online interpreter training programs: Online Medical Interpreter Training, Online Legal Interpreter Training, Online Immigration Interpreter TrainingOnline Community & Business Interpreter Training, or familiarize yourself with different types of interpreting and start developing your interpreting skills in our Introduction to Interpreting training program.


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