ATIA Blog: Saving Lives Through Medical Interpreting

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The professional fields of certified translation and interpretation are no different than any other skilled and regulated vocation: there are standards to uphold and suggested rules to follow in order to maintain some semblance of consistency across the board. This is particularly the case with ATIA associate and certified members who are bound by a Code of Ethics which protects them, the client and the industry. Our members translate and interpret the world around us – we make communication possible.

One area of the field that goes beyond establishing communication between people into the realm of saving lives is medical interpretation. Medical interpreters bridge communication barriers and build understanding between doctors, nurses and patients. This understanding is crucial for making sure proper medical decisions are made from properly listing symptoms, to making professionals aware of allergies to medicines or other items they made encounter in a medical setting.

Medical interpretation is also essential for helping patients have a complete understanding of what their medical care will entail and to be able to give proper, legal consent for procedures based on that understanding. For this reason, in-person interpreting is the most desirable – not only does patient anxiety diminish, but interpreters that are present are better able to see what is happening at the moment of interpretation.

Why should your medical interpreter be certified through ATIA?

A study from 2014 by the American College of Emergency Physicians determined that interpreter errors had clinical consequences and that errors were significantly higher with ad-hoc interpreters. Professional interpreters had an error rate of 12% (versus 22% on average). For professionals with more than 100 hours of training and experience, their errors dropped below 2%! Additionally, the errors made were less likely to result in medical complications or compromising situations. In many cases, this could be the difference between health and illness.