Medical Interpreters to Bridge Doctors, Foreign Patients

by Bae Ji-sook ,  The Korea Times | 2009-07-06

The government has started a program to train ``medical interpreters'' to help hospitals avoid language barriers when providing services to foreign patients.

The Korea Human Resource Development Institute (KHRDI), a subordinate of the Ministry for Health, Welfare and Family Affairs, selected 65 trainees for its 200-hour program to develop medical interpreters in English, Chinese, Japanese, Russian and Arabic. Sessions for those selected will take place from July 18 through Dec. 12.

According to the institute, all of the interpreters are fluent in both Korean and their own respective languages. Some have graduated from graduate schools of interpretation, others have worked in the medical field before and some are already working as interpreters at hospitals.

The curriculum consists of understanding communications in the medical field, methods of consulting specific patients; domestic and international medical laws; health insurance coverage and understanding of major diseases and their treatments among others.

The trainees will go on field trips to major hospitals that attract medical tourism: Yonsei Severance Hospital; Seoul National University Hospital Healthcare System Gangnam Center and Cheongshim International Medical Center.

Language Barriers

``We are seeing a growing demand for professional interpreters to help understand exactly how patients are feeling and what could be their best treatment,'' said Oh Hyun-bok, an official from the institute.

There are currently some medical coordinators, mostly in clinics, who consult basic programs for health checks or schedules; look after patients, and are able to do some interpretation or translation.

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