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May 2, 2019 |

Professional Medical Translators Do These 5 Things to Overcome Translation Challenges

Medical translation is one of the most rigorous types of translation. Medical translators face several challenges when handling medical information. For them, knowing the language pairs well is far from enough to deliver error-free translations.

Medical translators should have in-depth knowledge of the medical language, almost as doctors and healthcare providers do. It’s a specialist language that contains hundreds, maybe thousands, of medical terms rarely used outside the healthcare industry.  

People who translate medical information need experience in using the appropriate terminology depending on the type of documents they’re working with.

Just like doctors, they have to be familiar with new medical terms, health conditions, medicine, and medical equipment. The challenge is even bigger, as the terminology often changes due to the progress made in this field with technology and research.

Medical translation is essential in modern medicine, so medical translators really need to know what they’re doing when handling medical information. Here are five things any professional medical translator should do to overcome translation challenges.

1. Continuous Training

Medical translators need to invest in proper training right from the start. Otherwise, they can’t be appropriately equipped for medical translations in any niche. Medical translations require 100 percent accuracy. Any translation error can put people’s health at risk. It’s not a field where you can start working without solid background knowledge, hoping you’ll gain the skills as you get involved in new projects.

Medical translators can start their training by joining any interpreting or translation studies or any related course or Masters in translation and interpreting. Alternatively, they can go through a certification program offered by organizations like the American Translators Association (ATA).

In this field, one diploma or one certification is never enough to produce highly-accurate translations. Translators should join at least one professional body. This way, they can learn from other colleagues and become familiar with new trends in the industry.

Continuous training is essential in medical translations, as this domain is continuously changing, adding new treatments and medicine, as well as medical procedures.

2. Choosing a Niche

Medical translations are necessary not only for hospitals and healthcare providers but also in the pharmaceutical industry and related fields. It’s almost impossible to be an expert in all the niches within this area–not if you want to provide an excellent service, that is.

Choosing a niche within medical translation allows medical translators to narrow their expertise to a single section and become very good at it. By focusing on one area only, they master their skills and get relevant experience for consistent professional growth.

Luckily, there are many subdomains in this industry, from translating medical product marketing materials to working with case reports and clinical trials.  

Translators specializing in a specific niche are Subject Matter Experts (SMEs), which means they have in-depth knowledge of the terminology in the language pair, as well as experience in respecting privacy and working with authorities for obtaining approval for medication, for instance.

3. Knowing Limits

Medical translators should be fully aware of their abilities and limitations, both professionally and individually. Whether you’re translating doctor’s notes, protocol documents, or pharmaceutical research, there’s no room for errors in medical translations.

Attention to details, persistence, and diligence are essential characteristics for a professional medical translator. Something as little as not switching the decimal separator from a comma to a period, or confusing two similar terms that apparently have the same meaning can have severe outcomes for a patient’s life.

Think about an error in translating a patient’s clinical history. It could mislead medical providers with unknown effects on the patient’s health condition. The same could happen when mistranslating the composition or side effects of a medicine.

Such an error could lead to authorization disapproval, but it could also cause confusion among patients and lead them to take the wrong medication or dose with severe consequences.

Medical translators should know to say no when they don’t have the right tools at hand, or their skills aren’t good enough for completing a translation project. They should also know to admit when they may have made a mistake and ask for help from colleagues with complementary skills.

4. Respecting Standards

The medical industry is heavily regulated since errors put people’s lives at risk. So, all companies and organizations working in this field need to follow specific rules and standards.

Medical translators are no exception. As most companies looking to translate medical documentation must respect international standards, they’ll work with compliant and certified translators only.

Besides their extensive experience, professional medical translators should be able to prove their international accreditation and HIPAA compliance (in the U.S.). Without these, medical translators don’t comply with international standards. This usually means that they’re less likely to provide the accuracy required in this industry.

5. Staying Relevant

Laws and regulations in the medical field change often, as new procedures are being implemented regularly. Medical translators need to embrace changes and learn as much as they can about their impact on future work. This is the only way to stay relevant in the niche of medical translations.

Medical translators should dedicate significant time to studying and researching the industry. At the same time, they need to familiarize themselves with new CAT tools that could help them to deliver better translations, faster, and cheaper.

Attending conferences and industry events is an excellent way of staying up to date with the latest trends.

How Medical Translators Overcome Translation Challenges

Professional medical translators must be aware of the high costs language barriers generate in the medical industry and how their work can improve things. At the same time, they shouldn’t rely only on degrees and certifications, or on the feeling that they know it all.

Medical translators are SMEs in a specific area. Moreover, they have a solid portfolio that highlights their training and experience in the field, together with their accreditations and compliance.

Thanks to their efforts, they manage to stay relevant and consistent in a very dynamic industry. Accuracy and attention to detail are essential for medical translations, as errors in this field can put people’s lives at risk.

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