The Importance of Continuing Education for Medical Interpreters

The Importance of Continuing Education for Interpreters

The medical field is constantly changing and evolving.  As such, so is the knowledge required of medical interpreters to do the job well. Breakthroughs in healthcare are discovered and introduced into mainstream care on a regular basis.  These changes are not limited to terminology and treatments, but extend to an evolving code of ethics that reflects cultural and societal evolutions.

To stay in touch with these advancements, medical interpreters must periodically attend continuing education seminars and workshops to keep their skills and knowledge sharp and current.

In fact, many of you currently working as a medical interpreter, received your initial training by taking the Bridging the Gap medical interpreter training course. This basic 40 hour training fulfills the CCHI and NBCMI requirement for prior healthcare interpreter training, which is needed to take their tests for national certification.

This course is extremely beneficial for bilingual speakers who are currently providing medical interpreting services without any prior training as an interpreter. BTG training provides an introduction to the U.S. health care system as well as a basic understanding of the role of culture in interpretation. Basic interpreting skills, an introduction to medical terminology and human anatomy, coupled with a review of standards, ethics, best practice fill this full week of training.

But–one week is not enough time to prepare an interpreter to do their best work for the duration of their career. It’s a great first step, and should be followed by additional coursework and ongoing self work.

So what’s the next step? You need to look for training that includes LOTS of practicum as part of the curriculum. This is how you will be able to measure your performance, set goals, do the work of repeating skills drills, shadowing at different speeds and registers. You need to have these skills available and ready, well oiled, from repeated use, familiar, and comfortably at hand, to really do your best work, no matter the circumstances.

Ongoing, continuing education, undertaken on an annual basis, must be the default for all medical interpreters!

Let’s separate this premise from the two arguments that could derail our discussions: namely, cost and access to ongoing, continuing medical interpreter training. I will discuss those two points in detail in my next blog.

Let’s just look at why ongoing, continuing medical interpreter training for experienced interpreters is a good idea, a “best practice” if you will.

Brain training helped older adults stay sharp for years: study
By Julie SteenhuysenCHICAGOMon Jan 13, 2014 12:18am EST

(Reuters) – A brief course of brain exercises helped older adults hold on to improvements in reasoning skills and processing speed for 10 years after the course ended, according to results from the largest study ever done on cognitive training.

People in the study had an average age of 74 when they started the training, which involved 10 to 12 sessions lasting 60 to 75 minutes each. After five years, researchers found, those with the training performed better than their untrained counterparts in all three measures.

Although gains in memory seen at the study’s five-year mark appeared to drop off over the next five years, gains in reasoning ability and processing speed persisted 10 years after the training.

“What we found was pretty astounding. Ten years after the training, there was evidence the effects were durable for the reasoning and the speed training,” said George Rebok, an expert on aging and a professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, who led the study.

This study was undertaken with participants in their 70s. Imagine the impact if one were to begin brain training/Interpreter skill drills in one’s 30s or 40s?

If you take the time, you can document this for yourself and become a believer.

Go to , an online site that can help you “Improve your brain health and performance with brain games designed by neuroscientists to exercise memory and attention.”

Choose the skill you want to improve, multi-tasking, memory, attention, speed, etc. The site will offer you a number of different video gamelike options. Choose one. Then, simply document your scores for the next dozen sessions or so. I guarantee you will see a significant improvement over a course of only ten to twelve repetitions.

This just goes to show that if you make the effort, you will be rewarded with improved results. The skills you use every day as an interpreter can be made better with guided practice. Your skills can always be sharpened to be even better. There is always an area where you excel and where you can improve, no matter what you do for a living. For medical interpreters, continuing education helps make strong interpreting skills stronger, and strengthens areas you may currently perceive as weak.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s