Why Medical Interpreter Education is Key to Professionalization – Essay 8

By Rafael M Mas-Nieves CMI-Spanish

As a bilingual individual (English/Spanish), helping LEP’s communicate with others, have be a very satisfactory and fulfilling passion. Whether it was done for a stranger at a retail store, a family member calling the utility company, or a friend trying to buy a ticket for a concert, trying to help by interpreting was always a treat, but occasionally with bad results. Of course, getting the wrong color of paint, or the wrong phone number was not a big deal in those cases. But now with the proper Medical Interpreter Education, it have become obvious that it takes much more than knowing a second language to be a Professional Medical Interpreter. Medical Interpreter Education is Key to Professionalization for many reasons. Even when being recently certified as a Medical Interpreter, interpreting has been part of my life for more than 20 years without knowing it. Luckily I did not have to interpret in a medical setting back then. Without the proper education, the results could have been terrible. When dealing with patients’ health, it is important to follow rules and standards that can only be learned through proper medical education. Untrained interpreters, although with great intentions, have a tendency to modify the message by adding, omitting, or changing it; to make the target person feel better about the conversation. Sometimes to influence the result of the conversation, or to stay away from hurting someone’s feelings or believes. For example, in a non-medical situation with the car mechanic, a person can be told: “if you don’t change the oil more often the engine will blow up”, and the interpreter would render “the mechanic thinks that your car will run smoother if you can change the oil more often”. Both messages suggest a betterscheduled maintenance, but the interpreter did not emphasize in the urgency of the condition of the car. In the medical setting this can have a devastating result. Medical interpreter education makes us understand that we have to be loyal to the intended message. Being the conduit of the concept expressed, and not just interpret word by word. We must interpret thoughts, ask for clarifications and not fill the gaps for words that we did not catch, even if they seem obvious. There should be no assumptions in medical interpreting. In the medical field, changing an intended message could result in serious consequences, as opposed to a social non-medical session. Is all about accuracy and matching cultural meanings and thoughts. Without the proper Medical Interpreter Education, it would have been impossible to learn and understand the standards of interpreting, as well as the codes of ethics that are so important and make the difference between a trained interpreter and one without the training. Thanks to this education and available resources, ethical and practice standards that make us professional are better understood. It is great to know that providers are also being educated about how to work with an interpreter. For LEP patients, interpreters are just as important as doctors, nurses, therapists, or any other health care professional. An interpreter has a significant impact in the overall result before, during, and after a patient’s treatment. For this and many more reasons, Medical Interpreter Education is Key to professionalization.

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