Best Tips to Interpret in a Hospital by Sean Hopwood

I founded Day Translations many years ago in 2007, but my journey and love for languages ​​didn’t start there. It started from a very young age. At the age of 7, I grew up in a neighborhood with a large immigrant population, predominantly Mexican. It was on the playground where I nurtured my ability to understand others and my desire to help others be understood. I feel that most interpreters have their own path, but, at some point, they discover a love for languages ​​and a love for people.

Later on, I became a hospital interpreter, and I learned all of the critical aspects of being an interpreter in the medical field. Today, it is my aim to help others by giving information about what I have learned through the course of my 30+ years in the interpreting and linguistic field.

In the world today, we, at Day Translations, believe that language is the single most powerful tool to influence, help others, and make the world a better and more understanding place. However, being a medical interpreter is not an easy task.

You must have a multitude of specific skills in order to be a successful medical interpreter. Many people have a passion for interpreting, but you also must have the following skills in order to be a truly great interpreter: a love for language, a love for people and their cultures, an obsessive passion for learning the correct medical terms and using the correct term every time, patience, persistence, and an overall humble nature. I will go into these things in detail below.

Soft Skills All Medical Interpreters Need to Succeed

A Love for Language

Firstly, a love for language is needed to work in this field. Medical interpreting can often be tedious, and you may not get the recognition that you feel you deserve. However, I have found that I get a special “high” from interpreting. I feel enthralled and enthused every time I get to learn a new word or speak to someone from a different country.

Interpreters and linguaphiles actually feel happy just by speaking or hearing another language. Therefore, when you are in a medical setting, you need to love the language you are interpreting and love what you are doing. If you feel this way, your job will be easier, and the people around you will notice this and respect you.

Professional Passion

Second, passion is essential for interpreting in a hospital. As an interpreter at a hospital, I would go to work every day with a passion for what I did. A hospital is not a pleasant place for most people to be. No one wants to be there. However, if you have a love and a passion for what you do, you can make the patient and doctor’s life much easier.

For example, a person who is passionate about medical interpreting can get an assignment and study for days beforehand in order to ensure that she or he has all of the correct terms and is prepared for anything.

I used to teach a class in multiple languages ​​about bone marrow transplants. Imagine all of the words we don’t use on a regular basis that will be used in a medical setting. It is pretty intense! If you are passionate about people and passionate about getting the right word every time, you will surely be a successful medical interpreter.

Patience and Persistence

They say that patience is a virtue. This is true, and so is persistence. Something that people don’t realize is that an interpreted medical visit takes twice as long as a non-interpreted one. This is obviously because the interpreted meeting has to be repeated in another language. The patient, doctor, and nurses often don’t understand how hard it is to memorize and repeat everything that they say.

However, you have to be patient and interpret everything that the doctor and patient say, no matter how tedious or laborious it may seem. It is your duty as a medical interpreter to relay the entire message without adding, subtracting, or embellishing anything. You are simple a vehicle to relay the message.

A Humble Nature

With respect to the prior paragraph, this is why you must be humble. You need to realize that you cannot change the wording. You have to faithfully interpret the message to the best of your abilities. For some people, it may hurt their ego to know that you are basically a machine. You are like a calculator. You have to take the input from one language and output it into another language. You cannot add or subtract any information. Even if the patient asks you for help, the most professional thing is to say “I am only the interpreter. Please ask the doctor and I will interpret the message for you.” This is harder than it seems when emotions are involved in a medical setting, but it’s the professional thing to do in order to protect yourself and your client. Stay humble and keep it professional!

Wrapping Up

In summary, this passion for language, patience, persistence, and humility will take you a long way in the medical interpreting field. As the president of Day Translations, I can confidently say that I have continuously tried to humbly improve my abilities as an interpreter in multiple languages ​​as well as become the best CEO that I can be.

I am truly passionate about this field, and I hope to attract like-minded linguists and philologists who want to break into the medical interpreting field. Whether it be phone interpreting, in-person interpreting, or Zoom interpreting, Day Translations is here to support the interpreters and clients who make this industry such a great field to work in.

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