Medical Interpreters Explosion of Growth

Health Care Interpreter

Average Salary $43,000

Years Higher Education 2-5

Job Outlook Excellent

Health care interpreters facilitatecommunication between patients with Limited English Proficiency (LEP) and theDeaf and Hard of Hearing and their physicians, nurses, lab technicians andother health care providers. Because of the growing number of LEP patients, theneed for health care interpreters has grown swiftly in the last decade, sothere is good career potential in this profession.

When a patient has limited abilityto speak English, it is nearly impossible for even the most skilled clinicianto provide high-quality healthcare services without accurate interpretingperformed by a trained, qualified and credentialed interpreter who has aworking knowledge of medical terminology and medical systems. If familymembers, friends or staff who are not trained as health care interpreters tryto interpret in health care settings, errors in understanding and/orcommunication are more likely to occur, posing grave risks to the patient andimmense liability to the healthcare provider or institution.

Most health care interpreters areresponsible for providing face-to-face interpreting between patients andproviders. However, interpreters may also be asked to work with otherindividuals, such as family members or a patient representative, and they serveto help provide cultural information to facilitate support for a treatmentplan.

Health care interpreters oftenrender sight translation of basic health care documents by orally translating awritten document into the patient’s language. Health care interpreters may alsointerpret over the phone (OPI-over the phone or telephonic interpreting) orthrough video (VRI-video remote interpreting). Health care interpretersfrequently educate other members of the health care team regarding the duties,requirements, protocol and ethics and standards of practice involved in healthcare interpreting.

Despite the career’s challenges,most health care interpreters speak of the intense emotional rewards theyderive from their work. Like health care providers, on a daily basis they seethat their work in providing language access saves lives and protects healthand well-being.

Many health care interpretersperform their work over the telephone or using video technology. Due to limitedresources, particularly in rural areas and/or when specific language needsarise for Languages of Lesser Diffusion (LLDs) such as indigenous languages,telephonic interpreting is an industry that has seen considerable growth in thepast few years. Health care interpreters and providers may offer these optionseither full-time or in addition to on-site interpreting.

Throughout the United States,interpreters are key and highly valued members of the health care team. Theirresponsibilities have evolved greatly in the last decade and are continuing tochange to meet needs.


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