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How Medical Interpreters Change People's Lives

Medical Interpreters Change Lives
How Medical Interpreters Change People's Lives
on May, 25 2017

Every job requires dedication and some risks and all types of work affect millions of people anywhere in the world directly or indirectly. When there's a need for immediacy and accuracy, especially in the medical field, medical interpreters are at the forefront of auxiliary services that matter. They facilitate proper communication and complete understanding so that the right form of medical care can be administered.

Medical interpreters understand that their role is crucial when they get a call, because it most certainly will affect a person's life. They understand the urgency when they receive a call from paramedics, doctors, patients or nurses. These special interpreters are always ready to face the challenge.

Medical interpreters change people's lives. It's something they fully believe in and are committed to doing. They must be ready for any situation, whether they are required to provide assurance and comfort, facilitate communication between patient and healthcare providers or help in a crisis.

Related Post: 5 Key Differences Between a Medical Interpreter And a Bilingual Employee


What Do Medical Interpreters Do?

Medical Interpreting

The most basic function of medical interpreters is to work with patients who do not speak the official language in the country they are in. In the United States, they deal with patients with zero or limited English language skills. They can be employed in clinics, doctors' offices, hospitals, mental health facilities, nursing homes and rehabilitation facilities.

Medical interpreters act as the conduit between medical professionals and patients. They listen to the medical professional and orally translate the information into the patient's spoken language, in terms that are easier to understand. Conversely, they listen to the response of the patients and describe them to the healthcare provider in the correct medical terminologies.

There are many things that the interpreter orally translates, including why the patient is seeing the doctor, the medical history of the patient's family as well as the patient's past medical history. The interpreter may also be asked to explain surgical and medical procedures, explain instructions for medical care, schedule follow-up visits and provide required drug information.

Moreover, a medical interpreter help reduce cultural misunderstandings between patient and medical professional. By law, they also maintain patient confidentiality.

Dealing With Real Life Stories

Doctor and Patient

Medical interpreters deal with real life stories of people who have limited language skills to be understood. In the United States for example, medical interpreters assist those with limited English speaking skills. In normal situations, persons who are not very fluent in English tend to hesitate for fear that they will not be understood.

So they tend to circulate in communities where they are among people who speak their language. They shy away from occasions and places where English is widely spoken and if it is unavoidable, they would rather not join in the conversation or give short answers.

Now imagine what it feels like when there is an emergency and they do not know what to do. In such situations, out of fear and confusion, the more they will speak in their own language. When medical interpreters come, it is their job to defuse the situation, calm the patient to make them more coherent and translate what the patient is saying and the response or instructions the doctor/nurse/paramedic is giving.

Medical interpreting services are essential. Medical interpreters can soothe frayed nerves, calm the situation, help patients understand complex insurance forms, relieve depression, exasperation and panic.

Related Post: 7 Things Every Interpreter Hates


Life Matters

Life Matters

There are many stories that have been published, about misdiagnosis because of the lack of understanding due to the language gap. Doctors may not be conversant in the patient's language; the patient may know very little English and do not know how to describe their symptoms.

It's unfortunate that some people suffered because of the lack of access to medical interpreting services. There is the case of a Hmong child named Lia Lee from California. Doctors diagnosed her with pneumonia, when in fact she was an epileptic since she was an infant. Her parents had limited English-speaking skills and there was no Hmong-speaking interpreter at the hospital.

They were unable to properly describe her symptoms and the traditional care they give her at home according to their cultural beliefs. The parents believe that little Lia was consumed by a spirit every time she had an epileptic attack. The latter reason led to the parents not giving her the prescribed medicine. Lia was born in 1982.

Due to miscommunication, the near-fatal attack when she was nearly five years old resulted in her being placed in foster care for a year. Comatose after her near-fatal attack, Lia Lee lived on until she was 30 years old, in a vegetative state.

This is just one of the many unfortunate stories caused by the lack of medical interpreters that speak the multitude of immigrant languages in the United States.

Related Post: How to Maximize the Use of Medical Interpreters in the Health Care Sector


Positive Results of Medical Interpreting Services

Lia Lee's and many other stories like hers resulted in positive actions from the medical care industry and the government. Laws were passed requiring medical facilities to provide medical interpreting services. Medical facilities can directly hire their own medical interpreters fluent in the languages spoken by the majority of the communities they serve. They can also work with medical interpreting services providers.

The awareness of the benefits of making medical interpreting accessible to non-English speaking patients has helped to improve patient care. It's also encouraging more immigrants with limited English to seek medical help, knowing that they can get the proper treatment.

Professional medical interpreters help to make changes in the lives of people with limited language skills who need medical attention. They are trained to keep calm during crisis and are adept at cultural sensitivity. They are very familiar with medical protocols and terminology and are prepared for any situation.

They are accurate and precise, knowing that what they do affect the well being of a person. Their presence in medical facilities builds trust and confidence. They help lower the cost of patient care, increase medical care efficiency and reduce unneeded testing.

Bernadine Racoma

Bernadine is a writer, researcher, professional and multi-awarded blogger and new media consultant. She brings with her a rich set of experience in the corporate world, as well as in the field of research and writing. Having taken early retirement after working as an international civil servant and traveling the world for 22 years, she has aggressively pursued her main interest in writing and research. You can also find Bernadine Racoma at .

  • Aq Al

    This is a great article!

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