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Companies such as Metafraze or other Language Service Providers offer language services for all sorts of different industries. Medical services are in especially high demand. In the United States, it is estimated that there are between 350 and 430 languages spoken. Additionally, about 21.6% of the population speak a language that is not English at home. This indicates a huge need for linguistic services to assist them. Translators and interpreters are even more essential for these people when their health is at risk.

According to a research project conducted in 2020, about a third of patients in hospitals need linguistic services but do not receive them. This makes the role of translators and interpreters in the medical field even more vital. They are essential for helping patients and providers communicate. 

Medical Interpreters

A certified medical interpreter helps make complex medical information easily understandable for patients. They provide real-time interpretation. While interpreters usually work directly with patients and providers, they are sometimes needed to help interpret for family members or guardians of a patient as well. Medical interpreters are also required to have extensive knowledge of other cultures. This way, they are able to best decide on how to interpret what is being said even if there are large cultural differences between the patient and the provider. For example, if a patient comes from a very small, rural town, their definition of a doctor or a hospital might be different from what the provider understands from that word. As the interpreter navigates these differences, they can ensure that there is full understanding so that the patient receives proper medical care. 

While interpreters can usually be found working on-site at hospitals or clinics, since the pandemic of 2020, it has been increasingly common for interpreters to connect via the internet in order to provide linguistic services. These on-demand interpreters take calls from hospitals across the country. They can take the form of phone calls or video calls. Providers can send in a request for a virtual interpreter once the patient arrives. While the inability to interact with the patient personally can limit their interpreting abilities, they are still an effective way to make sure that as many patients as possible can have access to an interpreter. 

Medical interpreters often undergo special interpreter training. Because they may deal with sensitive, private information, they must pass certification training that helps them understand how to act in difficult situations. They keep the patient’s information strictly confidential and remain professional during emotional appointments. Training also ensures that they know complex medical terminology in both of their languages. Interpreters strive to act as a bridge between languages and cultures so that patients can feel comfortable and get the help that they need. 

Medical Translators

Have you ever reached for a pamphlet while waiting at the doctor’s office and picked up something in a different language? This is likely the work of a medical translator. They are in charge of translating medical documents and written content from one language to another. Interpreters work in the moment, immediately shifting words from one language to another, but translators are able to take their time, ensuring that their translations are as accurate as possible. 

Translators require even more knowledge of medical terminology than medical interpreters. They work directly with technical documents. These contain vocabulary that isn’t used during regular meetings between patients and providers. They even have to translate the chemical names of various medicines instead of their casual or “shelf” names. Another task given to medical translators is to translate brochures and pamphlets. These informational packets can be extremely vital to helping keep patients informed. They translate the pre-surgical information packets given to patients before surgical operations. This ensures that the patient knows exactly what will happen to them during a procedure. It also helps them to properly prepare for the surgery. Having this information available to take home with them can be much more effective than simply asking a patient to remember everything that a provider says during an appointment. They make sure that patients can understand the many consent forms that may be presented to them during a visit. 

Medical Translators also go through extensive training. They receive certification through the American Translator’s Association. This organization requires high standards of linguistic competence and professionalism. Similar to interpreters, translators can either work on-site at a hospital dealing with translating patient records or documents, or work from home to translate content sent to them from hospitals. Successful translators are often extremely good writers in both languages. They are able to read, understand, and translate even the most technical medical documents. 

Helping patients stay informed

The demand for language assistance, translators, and interpreters continues to increase. Good medical care is an important necessity, and linguists work to ensure that everyone gets the care that they need regardless of what language they speak. Too many patients go without full understanding of the medicine they take, the procedures they undergo, or the advice given to them by doctors due to language barriers. Medical language services are essential to ensuring that everyone has a safe, informed experience with their providers. They also ensure that medical advancements and information are accessible to all sorts of audiences. In this way, they build good relationships between cultures and people. 

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