Skip to content

The Medical Interpreting Appointment: What Challenges Await?

In a previous blog post, we discussed the differences between translation and interpretation. In any interpreting situation, a competent interpreter is a crucial component in successful communication. This can be especially true in a medical setting, where an interpreter is tasked with relaying critical health-related information to and from a medical professional and a patient.

Foreign Language Services has assembled a team of medical interpreters who are not only competent and professional, but go above and beyond in performing their duties. They love their jobs, but shared that serving as a medical interpreter does come with a unique set of challenges, like the following:

  1. When greeting the patient, the interpreter must remain neutral or impersonal. Seem easy? Not when the patient is desperate to talk to someone in their own language. 

  2. When greeting a busy medical practitioner, the interpreter conveys that every point and nuance, including facial expressions and pertinent body movements, will be interpreted. Although critical to accurate communication, this is not always appreciated.

  3. Acting almost as a mind reader, the skilled interpreter senses when the patient is lost and informs the practitioner. The interpreter is always attuned to the patient. Serious concentration is, therefore, essential.

  4. When a diagnosis includes devastating news, the interpreter must convey the message completely, unemotionally, but with great empathy. Such a difficult task is so appreciated by the provider!

  5. Confronting unfamiliar medical jargon or terms?  Sometimes, the interpreter interrupts to clarify; or, they might consult a dictionary. Two things are important: accuracy and clear communication. Professional interpreters are not afraid to seek help when needed. 

The above is by no means an exhaustive list. In fact, these five scenarios are just a few of the many challenges medical interpreters face. That is why training, education, and practice, along with native fluency in both target and source languages, are irreplaceable. FLS appreciates our interpreters who have become medically certified and who seek opportunities to learn continuously.

Hats off to FLS’s outstanding interpreters who help our clients daily!