E.g., 08/13/2020
E.g., 08/13/2020

Interpreters Through the Pandemic: Why They're Essential

By: Sean Hopwood, President - Day Translations, Inc.

Translation services are vital to accomplishing an efficient global response to the current coronavirus pandemic. Certified medical interpreters and translators are the key to guarantee adequate treatment and, most importantly, prevention. As it has been clear for the spread of the virus so far, an understanding of the necessary basic precautions will help to avoid a deadly outbreak.

During this article, the importance of professional interpreters and medical translators will be made clear, as will the reach of the COVID-19, its impact, and the main steps to follow in order to preserve one's health as well as others.

What are we facing?

Healthcare providers are seeing more patients, demand for medical attention increases with each passing day, and many significant aspects of this virus still remain unknown. One of them is the incubation period: people who have contracted the virus might not be aware of it themselves and still spread the disease.

In order to do our best both in the medical and the language community, it is imperative that we understand what the Coronavirus is.

The coronaviruses are actually a family of viruses that have caused pandemic outbreaks before (one of which was the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome, or SARS, in 2002). According to the World Health Organization (WHO), we are dealing with a novel coronavirus that can be contracted by close human contact.

The various and modern modes of transportation have marked a difference with past pandemics in the speed of the transmission from one another. With less advanced ways of communication and transportation, the Spanish Influenza of 1918 affected one-third of the global population. We were taught by history that this type of extraordinary event can have critical repercussions, not only in terms of human lives but in the economy as well.

Actually, economic disruption is another risk that could be mitigated by distributing clear information about prevention measures. Almost 15.8 billion U.S. dollars have been spent in litigation and settlements over cases of patients who needed readmission after being sent home. A translated message distributed by scientific and academic communities around the world will certainly make a difference in terms of exposure and later on economic consequences.

Translation service’s importance

Some may ask, what do translation services have to do with guaranteeing a rapid medical response? It turns out, a whole lot. And during this global pandemic, the use of professional medical translators will help reduce the loss of lives. 

An expert on medical translation, Dr. Wioleta Karwacka, form the University of Gdansk wrote: “In order to facilitate communication with foreign or immigrant patients with limited language proficiency and provide translated versions of medical documents (regulatory documents, scientific papers, patient forms), professional medical translators need to be employed.” This leaves no doubt that translation services have to one of the primary components of a coordinated global response.

This virus affects us all. People from all around the world are suffering its consequences, whether it’s due to direct contact with the disease, a friend or family member at risk, or the lack of job security and means of maintenance. The lack of certified medical interpreters and translators only aggravate this context–doctors might not be able to help someone who has the symptoms, nor explain how to face possible contraction to multilingual patients.

In this globalized context, it’s not only immigrants who are at risk, but also their host country. Adequate communication between patients and medical practitioners can only be guaranteed through the expansion of high-quality translation services. This is one of the most substantial means that will diminish and even eradicate the spread of the novel coronavirus.

Besides, it has been proven by the major medical centers that efficient medical interpretation improves the patients’ level of satisfaction and safety. Taking care of a person's´ health is not like fixing a car. Building trust is a key element to provide the best possible outcome for someone who suffers any physical distress.

A pandemic such as this will probably provoke fear and unsettlement. So offering the alternative of medical assistance that is comprehensible will make this experience a lot less stressful to any patient. The importance of a patient being able to converse with a doctor or a nurse in their own language is unquestionable since those interactions will make the patient feel more comfortable and, at the same, time, will allow health professionals to analyze every case with much more precision and certainty.

What to do?

There are several ideas that professionals in the scientific and medical environments have begun to implement to ensure healthcare-related communications. There are hospitals in the most populated cities of the world that count on language access programs and hired professional interpreters to collaborate with first-line medical attention in the Emergency room.

Some doctors and nurses use over-the-phone interpreting apps that help training basic communication skills in any desired language. It is important, though, to ask for the advice of experts who are used to translate medical terminology of quality.

Nowadays, medical interpreter certification has gained recognition and importance worldwide. Hence, qualified and trained medical translators are a completely realistic expectation. Even if that certification is not available in every language, looking for these kinds of services in the first place is a step in the right direction.

In-person interpreting is crucial. The interpreter in these cases is capable of catching a lot more than just words, and body language or cultural aspects that could affect health (such as nutritional habits) become accessible, which would not be possible during a mear phone call. And, thanks to current technological developments, being physically there wouldn’t be necessary: with video remote interpreting (VRI) these meetings can still take place from home.

Medical facilities today need to take the necessary steps to avoid costly errors in care, which is why decisions like the use of bilingual staff members need to be complemented by exams, language proficiency test, and assessments to ensure that they are ready to provide the adequate attention.

In case you are in need of further information about interpreting solutions for healthcare services, we count with brilliant online medical interpreters that would grant assistance in this time where understanding each other can mean the whole difference to stay safe and healthy.


Sean Hopwood

Day Translations Inc. is a company that is devoted to the improvement of global communication. By helping both corporations and the individual, we are providing more than a necessary service; we are developing opportunities for greater sympathy and understanding. Our mission is to help with the preservation of languages by providing perfect translations and accurate interpretations. We do so all the while maintaining a standard of customer satisfaction that exceeds expectations.