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Health interpreter: Hospitals get serious

WINSTON-SALEM, N.C., March 20 (UPI) -- Federal laws have required U.S hospitals to provide interpreters to non-native speakers, but there has been little enforcement until now, a U.S researcher says.

Dr. Olgierda Furmanek, associate professor at Wake Forest University says the Joint Commission, which accredits and certifies more than 18,000 U.S. healthcare organizations (including hospitals), is establishing new standards effective in January requiring hospitals to provide language interpreting and translation services.

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Furmanek designed a new curriculum and Wake Forest is offering a new master's degree in interpreting and translation studies with three tracks, including the Intercultural Services in Healthcare option, which prepares graduates for managerial careers in areas of culture-sensitive healthcare delivery. Another track, teaching of interpreting, will be the only one in the Northern Hemisphere educating faculty for college-level interpreting programs. The program begins next fall and the deadline for applying April 15.

There are many certificate programs for medical interpreters, but the field lacks professional rigor the way legal interpreting does, Furmanek says.

In addition to being fluent in a second language, medical interpreters must know a great deal of medical terminology, have good memory recall, understand ethics and cultural sensitivities, be accurate and precise in interpreting and translating medical information and they cannot omit or filter information exchanged between a doctor and a patient, Furmanek explains.

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