What Does a Hospital Interpreter Do?

Hospital interpreters must be fluent in a foreign language. They help non-English speakers understand their diagnoses, as well as helping medical personnel understand their patients' concerns. Find out more about the job duties, employment outlook and salary potential for this position. Schools offering Applied Communications degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Career Overview

As a hospital interpreter, you would translate information provided by medical personnel at a hospital into a language understood by the patient you are working with. To perform this job, you'll need to be fluent in at least one language other than English, and you'll need to understand medical terminology. Having a conversational knowledge of a foreign language with the ability to communicate in regional dialects is helpful to a hospital interpreter.

A hospital interpreter does not have to be a medical professional. However, knowing how to translate specific medical terminology to patients is required if you want to enter the field. Some medical interpreters gain their expertise through academic degree or certificate programs offered by colleges and universities.

Important Facts About this Occupation

Professional Certification The International Association of Conference Interpreters and the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters offer certification.
Key Skills Sensitivity to the circumstances of others, respect for confidentiality, understanding of medical terms in both languages
Work Environment Healthcare setting
Similar Occupations Adult literacy and high school equivalency diploma teachers, medical transcriptionists

Source: U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics


Your main duty as a hospital interpreter is to manage the flow of communication between a doctor or other hospital employee and a patient. Hospital interpreters may serve as translators of the written or spoken word and must earn the trust of patients, doctors, and administrative support staff in order to succeed.

Communicate with Patients

Your first task is to build trust with the patient. You will discuss any concerns the patient has with your translating and position yourself in such a way that you can easily speak with your client and listen to the physician. As you interpret, you will retain the vocal inflections of both parties, while accurately translating their words.

Convert Medical Forms and Materials

Many medical insurance and permission forms are available in other languages. As a hospital interpreter, you are responsible for translating the often confusing paperwork that patients must sign before treatments and procedures.

Communicate with Health Professionals

Hospital interpreters need to be effective liaisons between patients and doctors or nurses. You must be able to develop good relationships with physicians of many specialties so they will feel confident that you will communicate their views to the patient correctly. Communicating with nurses is essential, since patients have much more interaction with the nursing staff.

Communicate with Administrative Personnel

There's a lot of paperwork to fill out while entering and leaving the hospital. Most of these forms are in English. You'll interpret insurance forms, prescription information, and other important papers given to a non-English-speaking patient while in the hospital.

Employment Outlook and Salary Information

According to the BLS, the projected job growth for interpreters and translators was 29% from 2014-2024. In May 2014 the BLS reported the mean annual wage for interpreters and translators as $49,320. Such language professionals employed by general and surgical hospitals were reported to have earned an average salary of $47,640 as per the BLS in 2014.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

  • 1. Degree Options:

Popular Schools