Medical Interpreting

Overview

Medical interpreters facilitate communication between patients and healthcare providers. They provide the language bridge between patients with limited English proficiency and English speaking healthcare professionals. These language specialists do more than simply translate words – they relay concepts and ideas between languages. Medical interpreters need a strong grasp of medical and colloquial terminology in both languages. In addition, they must be sensitive to the cultures associated with their languages of expertise. Interpreting and translation are different professions, each requiring a distinct set of skills and aptitudes. Medical interpreters may, in some cases be asked to translate simple forms and instructions.

Details

Potential Employers

  • Hospitals
  • Physician offices
  • Long-term care facilities
  • Other medical facilities
  • Public health, social services

Work Environment

Medical interpreters work in a wide variety of healthcare settings.  While hospitals and other medical providers may have interpreters on staff, many interpreters work freelance.  Work schedules are highly varied, and may include periods of limited work interspersed with period requiring long, irregular hours.  Interpreters who work over the telephone are more likely to have a standard 5-day, 40-hour workweek.

Job Outlook

Employment of interpreters is expected to increase 22 percent from 2008 to 2018, much faster than the average for all occupations.  Higher demand for interpreters results directly from the large increases in the number of non-English speaking people in the United States.

The Bureau of Labor Statistics does not keep specific statistics on medical interpreters but cites the medical field as one where there should be strong demand.  Full understanding between patients and healthcare providers is critical in the health care field.

Aptitudes

  • Ability to speak fluently in English and another language
  • Ability to learn the techniques and topics related to medical interpreting
  • Competent in the culture of both languages, including body language and gestures
  • Ability to work under stressful situations
  • Ability to maintain focus on a single source of sound when working in a distracting environment
  • Ability to speak clearly and at an appropriate volume
  • Ability to work within a variety of medical settings
  • Have patience and tact

Education

Requirements

Interpreters must be fluent in English and at least one other language. Medical interpreters may earn a certificate from a community college or a 4-year college or university.  On-the-job training may also be available.

Programs in Nebraska

Related / Links

Professional Associations

For more information about a career as an interpreter:

Career information adapted in part from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, US Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handook, 2010-2011 Edition, Interpreters and Translators, on the Internet at www.bls.gov