Medical translation services: Requirements to work as a medical translator

Understanding what the doctors are telling you is imperative for effective treatment and having a healthy life.

This means that, in countries where different languages are spoken, non-natives are at a disadvantage when it comes to understanding medical information provided entirely in another tongue. Their lack of comprehension could result in serious consequences, even in cases where prevention or cure happen to be no rocket science. A medical translator could be used to explain medical information in a language patients can understand.

medical translator

For this reason, healthcare providers, drug stores and insurance companies are increasingly being asked to offer medical translation services to patients in their own native tongue.

Professional medical translation service providers provide the following amenities:

  • On-site interpretation (for meetings and appointments)
  • Over-the-phone (remote) interpretation

Not only should a good medical translator be able to understand complex medical jargon and explain it to the patient in simpler terms, but they also must be bound with confidentiality agreements to safeguard the patient’s medical information. Bringing a third person into a doctor-patient circle of trust is always risky. Translators have to be trust-worthy in addition to being competent. Usually, companies make individuals sign confidentiality agreements both with their firm itself and also with the patient in question.

Prerequisites to becoming a medical translator

Generally, being a medical translator requires fluency in a language pair and, if possible, being a native speaker of at least two languages. To be a translator needs extensive training, experience, and practice, not to mention certification and passage from one or the other language proficiency programs.

Translation in the medical industry is not easy. The field of medicine has its own set of terminology, estimated at being around 20,000 words long, that’s specific to its discipline. This estimate does not take into account names of illnesses, names of medicines, and the names of different parts of the human anatomy. A translator is expected to know all these, along with their meanings, the verbs to use with specific words, and how to place them in a text to better showcase their implication.

Being a medical translator involves translating various documents, including but not limited to physical examination reports, patient surveys and diaries, treatment instructions, Informed Consent Forms (ICFs), Patient Reported Outcomes forms (PROs), Discharge summaries, hospital records, patient information, healthcare brochures, clinical trials and protocols, etc. The job description also covers marketing materials for medicinal products, patient information leaflets, labels, and summary of product characteristics.

However, it needs to be understood that there is simply too much medical text for one person to become an expert in. Instead, medical translators concentrate on becoming proficient in their chosen niches, in a kind of specialization, and then their companies pair them up accordingly.

Medical translators possess at least a high school diploma, though many candidates have a degree or completed a medical assistance program so that they do not remain strangers to the actual medical procedures they are going to be translating.