The medical industry is one that’s constantly evolving. Medical translation is a humanitarian service that allows people fighting disease and illness to gain access to healthcare services, regardless of what language they speak. In this post, we’ll be taking a closer look at just how vital the work of medical translators is and why it’s a specialized field of linguistics.
What Exactly is Medical Translation?
Medical translation is a specialized translation service used for medical services, healthcare, and the pharmaceutical industry. It plays a vital role in helping healthcare professionals provide healthcare services to limited English proficiency (LEP) patients. Translators and interpreters in healthcare settings are there to ensure that patients also understand their condition and subsequent treatment.
What Are the Challenges Related to the Jobs of Medical Translators?
Even the slightest error in medical translation can lead to severe problems that can be harmful to human health. One mistranslated word in the dosage of medications can result in permanent damage to patients.
Medical translators and interpreters need extensive knowledge of medicine, pharmacology, and the technology used within the healthcare sector. In some specialized fields, these linguists also need knowledge of biochemistry, engineering, and physics. In the light of these requirements, it’s safe to say that medical translators must be both professional linguists as well as medical experts.
Why Are Medical Translators So Important?
Accurate Medical Translations Ensure Patient Safety
Since medical translations include clinical, marketing, regulatory, software, training, and technical content, there will always be a need for medical translation as new discoveries are made and implemented across the world.
Healthcare organizations across the world need translations of the documents and labeling associated with medical devices and pharmaceuticals into the country’s official language. This ensures the safety of the patients using these medications and devices. And when patient safety depends on a clear understanding of directions, there is no room for mistranslation errors.
Medical Translators are Subject-Matter Experts
The highly-regulated, sensitive, and technical nature of medical texts requires interpreters and translators to be subject-matter experts within their medical field of specialization. It is their job to translate medical texts in a way that guarantees that all users, patients, and physicians will understand them without errors.
The Cost of Mistranslations
The use of non-expert translators can have dire consequences such as clinical trial failures and in the worst case, the death of a patient. The story of 18-year old Willie Ramirez highlights the importance of professional medical translations.
In 1980, Willie was admitted to a hospital in Florida in a comatose state. His Spanish-speaking family described his condition as “intoxicado” to the paramedics. This description was translated by a bilingual staff member, who mistakenly translated it as ‘intoxicated.’
But the term “intoxicado” is actually an umbrella term used to describe when you’ve eaten or drank something that caused you to become sick. So its true meaning is much more closely related to the idea of poison than intoxication.
In Willie’s case, the hospital didn’t have a professional interpreter or translator on hand. And the family thought that the medical staff understood what the problem was. Even though Willie was suffering from an intracerebral hemorrhage, the doctors treated him for an international drug overdose.
The hemorrhage went untreated for 36 hours, and by the time the correct diagnosis was made, and surgery was done, it was too late. And that mistranslation left Willie quadriplegic.
Medical translation is a career field that offers linguists an abundance of opportunities, but there are also challenges involved.
Day Translations understands that the quality of a translator makes a significant difference in the quality of healthcare services rendered. Our translators have years of medical experience. They have a deep understanding of medical terms to translate complex medical terms accurately. But more than that, they also have a thorough knowledge of the culture and context. Our translators can convey the true meaning behind words.