5 Things to Look For in a Medical Interpreter
1. Look for Experience
Your interpreter should have experience in the type of work they’re doing so that they can handle the job correctly. This means that when you talk about medical conditions, reactions to medications, specific tests or procedures, allergies or illnesses, etc., the interpreter will know how to communicate this correctly in English. For example, if the mother-in-law visits and falls ill, they may not know what phrasing to use.
Medical interpreting experience is important because it can lead to accuracy of interpretation and because they are likely more comfortable with the setting and situation. If your interpreter has visited a doctor or medical facility recently for some purpose, then even better! If they have worked as an interpreter before within this setting, then choose one with good feedback from past experiences.
Many interpreters are members of professional organizations, which means they regularly attend seminars, tutorials, and workshops to update their skills with new terminology and information. If your interpreter doesn’t regularly attend this kind of training, then it’s possible that they could be missing out on important information related to health care or what is happening in the medical field in general. We all know how fast technology changes these days, so it’s important not to assume that an interpreter knows everything just because they haven’t been updated recently – skill relevancy is a huge part of the good interpretation and something we regularly do here at Language Connect.
It is also important to look for language skills. Although English is spoken in many hospitals worldwide, do you want someone who has less-than-perfect English working as an interpreter? It’s best if your interpreter is completely bilingual, so there are no language mix-ups during any of your appointments or procedures – the last thing you want is for your interpreter to turn what you said into something completely different! Of course, you also need an interpreter with good language skills who can understand everything said in English. As you can see, interpreters must be more than just skilled at their profession; they need to be smart on top of quick on their feet and communicate effectively on all levels.
2. Look for Personal Characteristics
What kind of person is your interpreter? Someone calm and helpful will make the conversation go more smoothly. Perhaps most importantly, you’ll want someone whose personality and the background will help them work well with doctors and medical staff. Maybe they’re used to dealing with authority figures at their job, or maybe they’ve worked in a hospital before. An ideal medical interpreter has gone through all the proper training and has experience in hospitals. They have at least had exposure to the medical field through family members or friends to be familiar with anything related to medicine or surgery.
Also, look for language skills. It’s important that the interpreter knows both languages well and knows the correct formal terms in each language for discussing medicine. The interpreter should know medical terminology, slang, or idiomatic expressions used in both languages to avoid mistakes related. For example, if someone has a “slipped disc,” it means something different depending on which language you are using.
3. Look for Professional Training
Your interpreter should have all the required training to work as a medical interpreter – this includes proper training and certification by an accredited organization such as NAATI (National Accreditation Authority for Translators and Interpreters). They should also carry their liability insurance so you can be covered if there is ever any problem with the service provided by your interpreter.
Additionally, medical interpreters must have their medical insurance policy. This is because the patient may not always be responsible for any medical costs incurred through an emergency or accident during a visit, and your interpreter’s insurance will cover them just in case. If they don’t carry this kind of insurance, then you should hire another interpreter who does.
4. Look for Convenience
Your interpreter doesn’t need to be located right in the hospital where you’re visiting – if that were the case, there would be no point in hiring someone! It’s best for them to be close by so it’s convenient if they need to come quickly after a call, but they can work from anywhere with internet access. For example, say you’re visiting a relative at the local hospital. An interpreter located in the city but not directly in the hospital can easily come and help you communicate with your doctor or medical staff.
Also, is your interpreter professional and well-presented? Do they look like they would fit in and be respected by hospital staff? If someone walks into an examination room wearing shorts and a t-shirt, this may raise some eyebrows with the doctors and nurses who work there. Although it’s great that your interpreter is dressed casually if appropriate (there are no rules here), make sure their clothing isn’t unusually casual or revealing for a business environment such as a hospital where everyone else is wearing more formal attire. There’s a time and a place for being casual.
Furthermore, look for medical interpreters who are open about their professional background, experience, and qualifications (such as certification or educational training). If they’re unwilling to talk about themselves, then be wary – you want someone trustworthy enough for both parties involved. Hence, you know the information exchanged between yourself and your doctor or medical staff is accurate. If your interpreter can’t explain their qualifications, then check with the agency they work for to see if there has been any feedback about them in the past. Once you feel satisfied that they are trustworthy, move on to looking for other things like experience and language skills, so you know you’re getting the best person possible.
5. Look For Interpreter Intelligence
It’s not just about language skills. It is also important that your interpreter is smart! They need to quickly understand what you’re trying to communicate in your language before translating it into their language. Even if you are using complicated medical terminology, the interpreter should interpret this accurately to avoid misunderstandings. Your interpreter may have many years of experience in both English and your native language, but don’t assume that they automatically know everything when understanding facts about medicine or specifically medical terms used in hospitals. If you find an interpreter with an educational background specifically focused on interpreting or translation, then even better!
Again, interpreter flexibility is essential. An interpreter should be as flexible as you need them to be, not only when it comes to their working hours and location, but also with the way they communicate – this means being able to speak at a fast or slow pace so you can understand everything being said in both languages during a visit.
An important part of healthcare interpretation is conveying information accurately and speed and understanding, so your interpreter should already have these skills if they were ever required to interpret for a person with a disability that needs slower communication beforehand. If an interpreter talks too fast, then you’ll have no chance of keeping up with what’s going on, just like if someone tried talking to you in really slow motion! This will lead to miscommunication between you and your doctor or other medical staff, which will visit much harder for everyone involved.
In addition, some medical interpreters may only be able to interpret for a certain type of doctor or medical professional, depending on their experience and skills. For example, if you want an interpreter who can only work with surgeons, make sure they have worked as a surgery interpreter before. This is because there are many different specialties in medicine, and each one has its specific terminology that can be hard to understand. You want your interpreter to be already comfortable with the language used by the doctors involved, so they don’t get confused or overwhelmed when talking with them about your specific case.
In conclusion, there are many things to look for in a medical interpreter- the above 5 points are just some of them. Before you take on any individual, be sure to check their language skills, interpreting experience. What services they offer so you know who you’re working with can take care of your needs without any problems.
Best Practices for Planning Event InterpretationEvent interpretation is an important aspect of any event, but it's often one that gets overlooked. You know that feeling when you're at a conference or other event, and people speak who you can't understand because they...
Using Phone Interpretation to Improve Communication at your Rehabilitation CenterMany patients come to rehabilitation centers with language barriers. Communication is an important part of the healing process, and many people do not always have access to a translator...
Does My Dental Practice Need to Offer Interpretation Services?With the pandemic, many healthcare practitioners have relied more heavily on remote services and technology to assist their patients. For dental practices, many professionals have recently used telehealth...