The dangers of using inexperienced health care interpreter or translator


The use of an inexperienced health care interpreter or translator has the ability to endanger the lives of the patient. An inexperienced health care interpreter is bond to make lots of mistake and errors during the course of interpretation. Over the past few years, poor interpretation, in particular has adversely affected the life of patients with language difficulties in health care setting. Patients who cannot speak the country’s home language finds it difficult to communicate or describe their problem and pain to the doctor. This makes them to go out in search for a translator that would help in translating their language to the doctor. Getting a health care interpreter or translator who hasn’t gotten any experience with health care terms, is almost equal to not having an interpreter or translator at all. To know more about the importance of having a medical interpreter in health care settings read our article called: ‘How Important Are Professional Medical Interpreters in Health Care Settings”.

An inexperienced health care interpreter is new to almost all the medical terms that would be used by the doctor. He or she tries to cover up his or her fault by interpreting normally with his human knowledge. This will lead to a faulty or incompetent medical translation that can cause severe medical complications, faulty diagnosis, and even death. The role of a health care interpreter does not require him or her to filter or modify any information that was provided by either the client or the doctor.

Some of the challenges faced by medical interpreter is that, providers may not be able to control the flow of conversation as effectively or efficiently as possible, when communicating in an all English conversation. As a result of this, providers or clients expect the interpreters to carry on with the flow of the conversation. They rely on the interpreter to act as a gatekeeper to control or limit the patient’s narrative. This kind of role may be too difficult for an interpreter with little or no experience, as they seem to get frustrated easily with it.

Having a medical translator or interpreter is not enough. It is important that the interpreter is competent and certified (this are people who have successfully undergone linguistic and interpreter ethics training through an accredited certification body). Health care interpreters should be accurate, unbiased, and in context. Their translation or interpretation should properly represent what the patient and doctors are saying. Their translation should enable communication between both sides. Otherwise, this are some of the problem that may arise when the interpreter is inexperienced.

  1. 1. Inappropriate treatment, complication, and at times death of the patient due to misdiagnosis.
  2. 2. Delayed treatment because of the inability to diagnose a patient properly.
  3. 3. Misinformation when patient education materials are inaccurately translated.
  4. 4. Fear of doctors to provide care or treatment because they might be sued for having an incompetent interpreter.
  5. 5. Litigation, as patients claim not to have received proper information when signing a consent form.

Penalties for health care providers that doesn’t use experienced and competent medical interpreters range from fines to imprisonment. Even if no damage has been done yet, some patients can still complain on the use of inexperienced healthcare interpreter.

Linguist Point aims to bridge the linguistic gap between businesses, cultures and people across the UK and Beyond. We enable businesses to engage and communicate with global audience efficiently in more  than 100 languages. Contact us today and navigate in the international waters safely 020 8523 5791