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How to Choose a Medical Interpreter Training

Medical interpreting is crucial to ensuring effective communication between healthcare providers and patients with limited English proficiency. However, being a medical interpreter requires more than fluency in multiple languages.


It requires specialized training to develop the necessary skills and knowledge to effectively bridge the language gap and facilitate communication in medical settings.


This blog post will help you choose a medical interpreter training program that meets your needs. I´ve also created a video on this topic, which you can watch or read the transcript below to learn more.


Whether you are just starting your journey as a medical interpreter or looking to improve your skills, this post will provide you with valuable insights to make an informed decision about your training options.




If you feel lost trying to select the right training to get you started in a medical interpreting career or to prepare you to become certified, this post is for you.


Questions about medical interpreter training programs or schools are among the most common that I get. I hope this can help you determine how to make the right choice.


The first place you should research when you're looking for the right medical interpreter training is within yourself to figure out where you are and how you want to do this.


I would basically narrow it down to two categories: Are you completely new to this career, or do you have some experience?


Most training programs designed for healthcare interpreters cover all the basics. That means they teach about the interpreter's code of ethics, standards of practice, and medical terminology.


I would say that if you have some experience, a course like this may be enough to not only meet the prerequisites of the certification programs but also to actually help you pass the certification tests.


If you have no experience whatsoever, I would say you would benefit from the most comprehensive course possible. To me, that means a course that would include everything I already mentioned, plus it would be a language-specific course, which I feel offers an added value compared to language-neutral alternatives because you'll most likely get glossaries and bilingual resources.


It would also include training on interpreting techniques and skills in different modalities used in healthcare, which are consecutive interpretation (for the most part), sight translation, and even some simultaneous interpretation.


The course would have scripted scenarios for you to practice and to have your performance reviewed by an experienced instructor. Ideally, the course would also have written and oral tests for you to take.


The cherry on top would be if the school would also provide some internship shadowing opportunities or supervised practices in real-life encounters. I have even seen courses advertise they offer potential job opportunities for some of their students.


Another thing you should consider is how you would like to do this: Do you prefer to attend in-person classes, or do you prefer to do it online?


If you are the type of person that prefers in-person classes, check out what is available in your area. Because for example, when I was looking for a course, that wasn't even an option for me because of where I lived.


If you prefer the online format, there are different modalities for you to consider:

Would you like an online course but with live classes with an instructor on a set schedule? Would you like an online course that is completely self-paced with recorded lessons?

Would you like a hybrid approach: Some live classes and some recorded lessons?


Another factor to consider is time. Some courses have specific enrollment periods or are only available during certain times of the year, while others are available year-round. So this is something else you need to consider if you have deadlines to meet.


Finally, think about your budget. Based on my research, these courses range from a few hundred to thousands of dollars. Some of these courses offer payment plans, discounts, and even scholarship options, so make sure to ask about that when you select the course.


I know there is a lot to think about, but like I said in the beginning, the first place where you need to research is within yourself, and all of this will help you narrow down what is the best type of course for you.


You may not find everything you're looking for in a single course, but remember that you can take a combination of different courses that give you everything you need. For example, I took an online course in a hybrid modality with live and pre-recorded classes, but the course didn't offer any actual practice.


For me, that was okay because I already had experience as a telephonic interpreter, but I wasn't good at taking notes by hand, so I took a note-taking course that helped me improve that specific skill.


Once you have a good idea of what you're looking for, it's time to actually start looking. You can always start with a simple internet search, but there are some references that different organizations have put together:


CCHI's list of online prerequisite programs. They have the list divided into two groups. One for online programs and one for on-site programs. There's a brief description of each program, including the number of hours of training you would get, the program's format, links, and contact information, which comes in handy during your research.


Those are sponsored or paid listings, so that doesn't mean that this is a full list of all programs accepted for the CCHI certification.


The NBCMI does not offer an actual list. Instead, they refer candidates to review the list posted by IMIA and CHIA.


IMIA CMIE Accredited Programs and IMIA Education Registry. IMIA has two different lists, and this was a bit confusing to me, so I researched to figure out the difference. One list is dedicated to training organizations that have been accredited by IMIA, so basically, they have a special distinction or seal of approval because they've met IMIA's accreditation standards.


The second list is IMIA's education registry, and it's where most training programs are. There is a search tool where you can narrow down your options based on where you are located and what type of course you're looking for. FYI, the companies listed here have also paid to be advertised.


CHIA's Interpreter Training Programs. Lastly, CHIA is the California Healthcare Interpreting Association and offers a very comprehensive list, which I like because it gives you a lot of great options to take college-level courses, although of course, they are in California.


They also offer a list of short courses from private providers, some of which are online. So these would be great options for those who are not in California. I'd prefer to see a dedicated list of online courses only. Right now, because of the way it's set up, you have to comb through the page to find them here. CHIA clearly states that it does not promote or endorse any of these programs.


As you can see, the bottom line is that we are responsible for doing our own research to determine which training is right for us.


Once you've narrowed down your options, contact the companies to ask them questions. Verify that the course is accepted by the certification programs, and look for references from other interpreters.


Remember that this career is a commitment to lifelong learning, and we will always need to invest in our professional education. Unfortunately, not all of us can afford to take classes at that renowned Institute of International Studies at Monterey, but you would be amazed at the level of proficiency you can achieve over the years with a good combination of these short courses and a lot of self-study.


Good luck with your search, and do not despair because the right course for you is out there!

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