Office of Continuing Education

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Christa Sterling

September 20th, 2016

Medical interpreters can help doctors ensure quality care for their patients.

Medical interpreters and translators must not only understand multiple languages, but be able to convey both medical language and complex ideas to patients and families that may be feeling stress from a medical emergency or condition. Here are some of the reasons why medical interpreters are in high demand right now.

1. More Americans are speaking a language other than English.

As of 2013, about 25 million Americans had limited proficiency in English, an 80% increase from 1990. This represents about 8% of the total U.S. population, which is about one in 12 people over the age of 5 that may need a medical interpreter when they go to the doctor or hospital. The languages with greatest need for interpretation are various dialects of Spanish, Chinese, and Vietnamese.

2. Hospitals have increasing regulations about translation services that cause them to need more interpreters.

Hospitals with significant LEP populations that receive federal funding are subject to requirements to provide qualified medical interpreters to those patients. Hospitals need significant increases in the number of medical interpreters to meet these federal requirements and ensure quality care to their LEP patients.

Nursing and other hospital staff may need the help of medical interpreters.

3. Medical mistakes and complications are less likely when interpreters are used.

Many LEP patients use family members including children or friends to translate for them, but these untrained interpreters may not be proficient in medical terminology, and translation mistakes are likely. Using medical interpreters has been shown to reduce medical mistakes, and people who have access to medical interpreters show lower rates of serious complications after surgery and other medical treatment.

4. More people are getting medical insurance and seeking care.

One reason medical interpreters are in demand is because greater numbers of people are getting medical insurance because of government health care reforms. Medical interpretation is often covered by Medicare and other insurance companies because of the protections it offers. As the fines for not having medical insurance continue to grow, the numbers of people enrolling in medical insurance plans is likely to continue to grow as well, including those with LEP.

5. Medical interpreting prevents costly over-treatment.

Insurance companies are realizing the benefits of using medical interpreters. Medical interpreters not only improve patient safety and care, they can also prevent over-treatment, which can save insurance companies money in the long run.

Medical interpreters often work in hospital settings and doctors’ offices, but some can work remotely via phone or video conference as well. The Bureau of Labor Statistics expects interpreter and translator jobs to increase 29% by 2024, which is much faster than average. Nationwide, 17,500 new interpreter jobs are expected to be created.

For those who speak a language fluently, other than English, continuing education courses can provide the training necessary to sit for the exam to become certified to become a medical interpreter. Becoming a certified medical interpreter will open up new job opportunities and allow you to help others as well. View open courses at CCSU for opportunities to get training in medical interpreting.