Whether you are a recent graduate from an interpreting program, or have 20 years of experience working at a medical facility, here are some tips to help you become better at your job. Medical interpreting is a fairly new career, and many health care professionals and patients don’t know the difference between being a bilingual individual than being a professional interpreter specializing in the healthcare field. At the same time, the new federal standards for being an interpreter in a medical facility have put this career in high demand, so there is more competition for full time jobs and freelance positions (especially in the Boston area). What are you going to do to become an interpreter in high-demand? What are you going to do to stay fresh and to help raise the bar on the perception that medical interpreters have? Here are some tips that can position you as a leader in the field:
1. Learn More about Medicine: Set weekly goals to learn more about medicine. You can start by writing down procedures or illnesses you come across at an appointment, and check out books from the local library. This will open the door to a new world.
2. Don’t stop Practicing your Proficiency: Some medical encounters can be very stressful, and it is not the best time for you to forget an essential word. There are many classes being offered as refresher courses, some are targeted to some specialties and some are for general vocabulary. If the medical facility, or other place, is offering a free seminar for a specific sickness (usually they are free, because they are for family members of the person with the illness), go to it. Bring a notepad, interpret what the speaker is saying in your head, and take notes on the terms you are not familiar with. This can also help improve your taking notes technique.
3. Have a Heart: As a former medical interpreter, I understand that once you are in the field for some time, it is easy to get frustrated at the patients when you are doing all you can for them to understand, when they don’t listen but instead come up with questions or comments that have nothing to do with the meeting, etc. First of all, remember that you are the voice in the scenario, and you are not the one the provider will get annoyed at if the patient is not “present” in the appointment. Second, usually if you are requested is because the patient doesn’t know English at all, and this usually also represents their level of education. Have a little sympathy and empathy, remember that it is hard enough for them to be in foreign soil away from family, and they are not to blame for their lack of “manners”.
4. Get the National Certification: You can find more information at the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreter’s website (http://www.certifiedmedicalinterpreters.org/prerequisites) regarding your specific language, but this professional credential will give you more credibility around the country.