Skills to Look for in a Medical Interpreter

Woman with clipboard in doctor’s office

Several different types of industries need interpreters to overcome any language barriers that could be between the worker and the person they are trying to help. In the case of medical companies, having these global interpreting services can literally save a life. A hospital or medical company will definitely search for linguistic skills on a résumé, but there is more to being qualified for the job than just knowing different languages off the top of your head. If you plan on hiring someone, they need to show you that they can demonstrate a variety of skills that could make them highly adaptable to the chaotic environment of your workplace. As you are going through your list of candidates, please see if they also demonstrate proficiency in the following skills.

Great Communicators

This feels like it should be a given, but communication doesn’t just boil down to knowing the patient’s or doctor’s language. They should show that they also can talk to the person with the right tone, emotional resonance, speed, and diction to get their point across.

What makes being a healthcare interpreter especially difficult is that some concepts are not easy to explain, even in the patient’s native language. People could be hearing major changes that can occur in their lives, or what they can do to fight preexisting conditions. The patient can take in some of the tougher news if it comes to them naturally.

If it comes from someone who sounds unconfident in the language or nervous having to tell someone the bad news, then the patient could feel further isolated and lose trust in the doctor’s diagnosis. Going to the hospital is already uncomfortable as it is, so an interpreter can ease up at least a little tension to make the process easier.


Most, if not all, of the professions in the medical industry require some form of adaptability. Doctors have to act quickly to save a patient’s life. Even the people who aren’t in the emergency room have to act fast to answer the phone and process the incoming requests. It’s a fast-paced environment where everyone is expected to take their jobs seriously. Too much hesitation could spell danger for someone’s life and career.

Workers from interpreting agencies have to be highly adaptable if they want to work at a hospital or medical company. They have to talk with their co-workers in their native language and quickly switch to the patient’s language if they have to tell them instructions or warnings quickly.

People joke about interpreters having two different mindsets while on the job, but that’s honestly not far from what they have to do. They talk to the doctor, understand the different terminology they are discussing, then tell the same thing to the patient in a way they can understand it. They need to make the patient understand it, not only in their own literal language, but also in a way where these medical terms can make sense to them.

If you’re looking for interpreting agencies to find someone who can jump between two languages quickly and efficiently, Tembua, Inc., might have some of the people you need on your team.