Interpreting in Medical Settings:
Synthesis of Effective Practices Focus Group Discussions
Developed by Marty Taylor, Ph.D., Project Consultant
Background | Data Collection/Process | (1) Requisite Skills | (2) Advocacy/Support | (3) Cultural Differences | (4) Diversity | (5) Deaf Interpreters | (6) Sight Translations | (7) Patient Charts | (8) Conveying Meaning | (9) Crossover to Legal | (10) Job Description | Summary/Implications | Appendices | Download PDF of Report | Download PDF of Focus Group Survey Results
Five of the twelve groups had time to comment on the job description. One participant stated, “Hopefully, this survey will result in this training/workshops/refresher courses even at a surface level before an interpreter goes out and starts working. It is interesting and exciting to have this opportunity.” Another person stated, “Anything that improves our skills serves us well.” And a third person remarked, “I’m proud to be a part of a team that has the majority of these skills.” A fourth person reported, “If an interpreter completed a graduate program with the skills listed it would be a great asset to the community.” The groups reported that there is a definite need for specific training on an on-going basis along with information that is regularly updated to keep pace with the rapidly changing medical field. The caveat noted was that there are no legal requirements, state or federal, mandating education or certification in medical interpreting like there is in legal interpreting. It was felt that legal interpreters take their work seriously, and due to the lack of legislation for medical interpreters they are not willing to put the time, energy and expense toward additional training.
The importance of bilingual fluency, as well as awareness of linguistic, social and cultural influences cannot be overemphasized. It was reported that the “people skills are missing from the description” which is vital in working in medical settings. It is important to interact well with the health care professionals and deaf consumers. Also dental is an area that should be reflected in the description because this is an area of specialization that is different from hospitals and medical clinics, yet still medical in nature.
As in many of the comments in previous sections within this report, the differences between working as staff interpreters and freelance interpreters are significant. What staff interpreters do and are expected to do are very different from freelance interpreters who are called in to work on an “as needed basis”. Perhaps different job descriptions need to be developed for staff and freelance interpreters.
One group reported that the job description is really an identification of skills rather than a job description. However the list of skills, the bulleted portion of the description, is informative and contains useful goals for interpreters working in medical settings. Some of these will be learned on the job and are not necessarily requirements prior to employment. One group reported that they had weaknesses in the areas of various health care approaches, and in laws and policies.Several participants recommended that CDI be added to the certification requirement. In addition, a number of groups mentioned that national certification is not specialized enough for interpreting in medical settings. One group did not support the requirement of national certification. Instead, they had state certification with the possibility of the state providing a medical endorsement in the future. The medical endorsement would provide more specific expectations than a generalist national certification does at this time. This group felt that state certification should be recognized. One interpreter reported, “if you are only going to work in the medical field, I think it’s more beneficial to get the medical training as opposed to national certification.”