Why Medical Interpreter Education is Key to Professionalization – Essay 5

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By Kelly Martinkus

Healthcare is a field in which training and education, including continuing education, is imperative in order to provide the highest quality of care for patients. In today’s world, many allied health professions have used education and training as a means of professionalization, and medical interpreting is no exception. Thanks to formal education, nursing in the 21st Century is far different from nursing during the time of Florence Nightingale, the founder of modern nursing. Training and education for nurses in the U.S. has evolved greatly throughout the years, leading to the professionalization of the field. Initially, training was provided by nurses with experience. Later, hospitals offered training programs for nurses that mainly involved bedside nursing. Today, most nursing programs in the U.S. are college and university programs that offer extensive academic coursework as well as hands on training. Many modern nurses hold master’s degrees, doctoral degrees, or various certifications within their field, and autonomy in nursing is more prevalent than ever. It is through education that we will see the evolution and professionalization of medical interpreting as we have seen in the field of nursing. In the words of Daniel J. Boorstin, “Education is learning what you didn’t even know you didn’t know.” Often times when we take that next step in our academic or professional careers, we don’t realize the knowledge or training we actually lack until someone with greater knowledge enlightens us. Physicians, for example, go through a series of humbling and enlightening experiences throughout the various phases of their education and training. A young physician may be proud of himself for attaining his degree or passing his next professional exam only to be humbled by his attending physicians who have far greater knowledge and experience than he. When that young physician finally achieves the highest level of accomplishment in his particular medical specialty, he will still be required to remain abreast of changes in the field and complete continuing education. It is education and training that has also allowed for the professionalization of medicine as it has in many other areas of healthcare as well. As a medical interpreter trainer, educator, and mentor, one of the most interesting and fascinating aspects of my job is watching students make the transition from student medical interpreter to trained medical interpreter. This occurs not only because they obtain their certificate in medical interpreting, but rather, because they have been enlightened. They leave the course knowing far more than they did just a few short weeks before and are often humbled by their training experience. They learn that no matter how much they study there will always be a medical term that they do not know. They now know that challenges will always arise in the triadic encounter regardless of how many encounters they have interpreted. Through medical interpreter education we will continue to see the professionalization of medical interpreting. Comparatively speaking, the medical interpreting profession is in its infancy, but the standardization of training and the certification process are just the first of many steps to the professionalization of the field

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