The Case for Medical Interpreters

The Case for Medical Interpreters

Jazmin Manjarrez knew something wasn’t quite right. She was interpreting between a patient’s family and their mother’s doctor. The physician had told the family their mother was not a good candidate for a liver transplant. The family’s body language betrayed their anger and frustration. Those weren’t typical reactions for this type of news.

Manjarrez realized the family did not understand the reason why their mother was not a good candidate. She asked the physician to explain. The family’s anger and frustration evaporated as Manjarrez interpreted for the doctor. Their mother’s other organs would not have survived the transplant surgery and recovery. This is why she was not a good candidate it was not the fact that she spoke a different language from the doctor. The family’s body language changed completely, with sadness and disappointment replacing anger and frustration.

The Role of the Medical Interpreter

Today, Manjarrez is on the National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters. Her years of experience in exam rooms with doctors and patients have taught her that medical interpreting involves more than repeating a doctor or patient’s words. She has to pick up on facial cues, body language, and have a deep understanding of the cultural norms of both parties to avoid misunderstandings, frustration, and ultimately, medical errors.

That is the role of medical interpreters in today’s health care system. Interpreters do not simply parrot back doctors’ orders. They navigate the complex medical system and patients’ diverse cultural backgrounds so patients receive high-quality medical care. With hundreds of thousands of non-English speaking patients requiring care every year, hospitals are finally starting to grasp the necessity of medical interpreters in their facilities.

A Career Choice with Growing Opportunity and Rewards

Today, nearly 70,000 people are employed as translators and interpreters in the United States. Medical interpreters make up a respectable percentage of those 70,000. The role of interpreter is one of the fastest growing jobs in the country, with more than 12,000 more professionals entering the workforce by 2026, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics.

For interpreters like Manjarrez and those at Intelligere, medical interpreting is a rigorous, challenging, and extremely fulfilling career. We go through extensive training to become interpreters and constantly hone our skills.

This empowers us to be an advocate not only for patients, but for high-quality health care. Over the course of a day, we may sit next to a patient receiving a cancer diagnosis and another learning their cancer is in remission. We are in the room with expectant mothers and during well-baby visits. Regardless of the situation, we help ensure our patients fully understand and consent to the care they receive.

Few professions are as rewarding as medical interpretation or as necessary. The interpreters at Intelligere would love the opportunity to share experience and expertise with you. Contact us today.


Note: The content for this blog post is from the article – “AHA: Interpreters Are Key for Stroke Patients Struggling to Understand”