close up of hospital interpreter
By: Doug On: August 18, 2016 In: Interpreting, Medical Comments: 0

If a patient who speaks limited or no English is rushed to the emergency room, having a trained hospital interpreter available can be the difference between a swift diagnosis and a prolonged game of charades.

Communication is the key to providing complete and excellent health care. A professional hospital interpreter enables communication between doctor and patient and helps satisfy a patient’s needs. Aside from finding someone who’s multilingual, these are some of the important characteristics hospital administrators must consider when hiring an interpreter:

1) An Expert Knowledge and Vocabulary

Hospital interpreters need an in-depth knowledge and understanding of the proper medical terminology to be able to communicate most effectively.

Time is often at a premium in a hospital, and a qualified hospital interpreter will be able to relay the proper medical information between patient and doctor at the appropriate pace. Interpreters who are simply multilingual but lacking in the required technical knowledge may have to pause and search their vocabulary for the most accurate terms and end up debilitating communication.

Some hospital interpreters maintain credentials such as professional certification. While certification isn’t required to become a medical interpreter, some hospitals encourage certification for their interpreters. Certification alone doesn’t guarantee better performance, however, and debate continues as to whether or not certification should become mandatory for hospital interpreters.

2) A Niche to Fill in Your Community

A hospital serves a large number of patients every day and, depending on your hospital’s specific community, this patient base might speak dozens of languages.

It’s necessary to take the needs of your community into account when hiring hospital interpreters. While it’s a bit extreme to hire a linguist to interpret for every language you can think of, it can also be damaging to simply have one or two interpreters who speak only Spanish and English.

When addressing your hospital’s language needs, consider the demographics your hospital serves as a whole and not only your current patient base. Before selecting an agency to provide medical interpreting services, find out what languages your patients speak, and make sure that the company you hire is able to provide interpreters for them. By observing the development of your community, you’ll be better able to anticipate and accommodate their language needs.

3) On-Demand Availability

Because the action in a hospital is constant and unpredictable, it’s important to have access to an array of experienced interpreters to deal with any situation that may arise.

It’s impossible for a hospital to keep an interpreter on staff for every language. By taking advantage of a professional interpreting agency, however, a hospital can react swiftly to patients’ needs, even for less commonly spoken languages. Being able to readily provide an interpreter for a number of situations saves time and facilitates more accurate communication.

A professional telephonic interpreting service is another option. Although face-to-face interpreting is nearly always preferred because it allows the interpreter to pick up non-verbal cues, having access to telephonic interpreting helps keep your facility better equipped to satisfy the needs of potential patients and their families.

By understanding the ways in which a professional medical interpreter can best serve your hospital, you can be more sure that the road to recovery for your patients will be clear.

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