Leading the Nation to Better Health: Interpreting Jobs on the Rise

The interpreting profession for spoken languages has come a long way since it began using volunteers to national certified interpreters of today.  The demand all over the United States for all languages has skyrocketed in the past 10 to 12 years. In the past, interpreter services were provided by volunteers, children and other community members without any training. These ad hoc interpreters were doing the best they could with what they had.  Many family members acted as interpreters and many times they left out crucial information. They were omitting and or distorting the message during the medical encounters leaving the limited English proficient patients open to risk. Sometimes the limited English proficient patients would not follow instructions or they were less likely to come back for follow up appointments due to the poor communication between the provider and the patient.  According to the recent census, 20.8 % of the population in the United States speaks a language other than English.  Laws like Title VI, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, and national origin, are some of the reasons for the new emerging interpreting profession.

The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters and The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters now offer a national medical certification for spoken languages to medical interpreters.  Their focus is to provide qualified and competent interpreters to limited English proficiency patients making sure the quality and care received by patients is the highest possible. To be certified by one of these organizations an interpreter needs to pass a written and an oral test.   The written test focuses on medical terminology, roles of the interpreter, culture competency and the code of ethics.  The oral test measures the ability of a candidate to go from English to the target language and vice versa.   Procedures, medications and diagnoses are also a part of these tests.  A person considering becoming an interpreter not only needs to be bilingual but should be able to convey the original message from one language to another without distorting it.  Memory skills are also important when considering the interpreting profession.  In the medical field, interpreters use a consecutive mode to interpret.  The consecutive mode is a relay where the provider speaks and the interpreter renders the message in the target language, then the patient speaks, and the interpreter renders the message to the provider.

A 40-hour training class such as Bridging the Gap, is a minimum requirement in becoming a qualified medical interpreter for languages such as Spanish, Arabic, Russian, and Mandarin. Bridging the Gap is a medical interpreting training curated by The Cross Cultural Health Program, based in Seattle.  They are a pioneer institution in this field.   Some experience and a 40-hour course on medical interpreting are required before considering taking the exams to become a national certified interpreter.  As of today, being certified is the highest level you can attain as a medical interpreter.  Certified interpreters need to take continuing education trainings to maintain their credentials. The National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters and The Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters are creating some of the programs that meet the requirements for accreditation.

The number of jobs for interpreting and translations according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics will increase 42% between 2010 and 2020.  Interpreting is a profession that is growing rapidly due to the demand and the fact that LEP individuals accounts for 9% of the US population. The Limited English Proficiency population has grown 80% from 1990 to 2010.  The future of interpreting as a profession is promising and it is here to stay.   We will see more interpreters in clinics, hospitals, court, and the general workplace.

Interested in being an interpreter?

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