Health Care Interpreter

Job Description

Health care interpreters help patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) communicate successfully with medical professionals and providers.

The services of a health care interpreter enables clinicians to provide excellent service to LEP patients, furnishing accurate translations of symptoms, medical history, and healthcare terminology.

This profession is urgently needed as the number of people with limited ability to speak English continues to rise strongly in the U.S.

A health care interpreter today is a high-valued member of the medical team in countless healthcare venues across America.

They provide verbal document translation into a patient's language, in person, over the telephone, or via video chat.

They also furnish two-way translation between patients and doctors or other medical professionals, provide cultural data that can be important to tailoring a treatment plan, and assist in communicating with patients' spouses, relatives, and friends who are also LEP individuals.




Health care interpreters greatly improve communication with doctors, nurses, laboratory technicians, and other medical personnel.

These trained interpreters offer much more accurate translation than friends or relatives of the patient, reducing the hospital's liability and protecting the patient from the dangers of a critical misunderstanding. 

The primary responsibilities of a health care interpreter include:

  • Bridging the gap between healthcare providers and patients

  • Providing translations of medical documents, including records and prescriptions

  • Correctly explaining procedures and medications to patients, including potential side effects

  • Maintaining fluency in multiple languages

  • Supporting the health and well-being of patients by accurately facilitating communication

  • Upholding laws, regulations, and policies in accordance with health care interpreting practices

  • Ensuring confidentiality of patient information

  • Understanding their ethical obligation to the position





Must effectively communicate with your co-workers to ensure the best care and the proper procedures. Must be able to communicate in high-stress environments.

Active Listening

Offering your full attention to an individual person or group in order to fully understand problems and their nature.

Critical Thinking

Must use logic and reasoning to identify the strengths and weaknesses of alternative solutions, conclusions or approaches to problems.

Judgment and Decision Making

Needs to be able to act autonomously and make difficult decisions that would benefit the patient or make corrections. Must consider all benefits and repercussions of potential actions and choose the appropriate one. 

Complex Problem Solving

Must be able to identify complex problems and develop and evaluate corrective options and implement solutions. 

Stress Management

Must be able to endure intense situations and handle pressure that comes with extreme situations you may encounter.


Must be trustworthy because you have people's lives in your hands and what you do could help or hurt them. They are entrusted with a great responsibility and must live up to it. 


Gauging how people react and read their body language to decipher their feelings and predict their actions. They must be able to determine if people could be a risk to themselves or others and to distinguish truths from lies.


Working Conditions


A health care interpreter's working conditions differ hugely depending on where they are employed. Depending on the size and organization of the hospital, the interpreter may work in just one section, or may provide interpretation services in multiple departments.

The job formerly involved mostly day shift work, but with increasing numbers of LEP patients, night shifts and on-call work on weekends or holidays is often necessary, especially in acute and urgent care.

In large cities or hospitals, workloads can be quite intense. Additional pressure comes from working in the emergency room, in substance abuse clinics, domestic violence centers, mental health institutions, forensic medicine, or other situations of a like nature.

While some locations give interpreters a break every two hours, many cannot or do not offer these respites and working continuously for much longer is possible.

Counterbalancing these stressful factors is the deep emotional satisfaction and the positive feelings many interpreters experience when they see how much their services save lives and improve treatment outcomes.

While urban settings have the highest demand for health care interpreters' services, more and more rural areas also need them. In addition to face to face translation, these professionals work over the telephone or through video.



Salary Outlook