Blog / News

Key areas of healthcare where translation is a vital tool

Key areas of healthcare where translation is a vital tool [iStock/sturti]
in Healthcare

Everyone at some point or another will need to visit a doctor, and according to the Office for National Statistics (ONS), in the UK alone, this can pose a particular challenge for doctors and nurses, with as many as eight per cent of the population of the UK not having English as their first language.

That means that some 5.2 million people speak a language other than English. Polish, Urdu, Punjabi and Bengali are all among the most common, with hundreds of thousands of speakers apiece.

Having such a varied spread of languages, and all with high volumes of people speaking them, can present a challenge for healthcare providers that is important to overcome with and impactful translation and interpreting. Here, we take a look at just a few of the most common areas where linguists can help doctors, nurses and other healthcare staff overcome challenges.


At the first point of contact between a patient and healthcare professional, it’s important that language barriers are broken down, which means that face-to-face interpreting services are an essential at an early stage.

If a patient is coming to see a doctor or a nurse with a complaint, ailment or illness, it’s not just the doctor that needs to be understood, but the patient as well. If they are unable to communicate what is wrong with them or how they feel, then the doctor who is looking after them may not be able to make recommendations or diagnoses correctly, which can lead to severe problems further down the line.


When a doctor is making a diagnosis, it’s not enough for he or she to know what is wrong with the patient. They have an obligation to make sure that the patient themselves is fully aware of any diagnosis, as well as the health implications thereafter. To not do so would result in negligent care that could potentially be harmful. If someone doesn’t know the extent of their illness, they may, for example, be inclined to treat it less seriously.

At this stage, a doctor needs access to a qualified and experienced interpreter, who not only has knowledge of translation, but also the medical field. When it comes to diagnosing illnesses, there are many terms that are specific to the medical sector, so the interpreter needs knowledge of these to be able to convey to a patient exactly what is wrong at a vital stage. Experience is also important to help translate and deal with any questions that can arise from the patient at a difficult time like this.

Patient care

After the diagnosis, the next stage of any healthcare process is to ensure that someone is looked after correctly. Whether that involves sending them home with instructions on how to rest and recuperate, or keeping them in hospital for tests and/or treatment, the patient needs to understand what is happening.

A doctor must be able to tell the patient, through an experienced and qualified translator, what any treatment will entail, as well as the implications and risks that can come with this. To not do so could be considered negligent, so they need to know that the patient understands and has full knowledge of what is going to happen, in case they have any concerns, questions or opposition to the proposed treatment.


Of course, it’s not just face to face interactions that have to be conducted properly in the world of medicine. It’s important that any documentation, labels and other written pieces are accurately translated to ensure everything runs smoothly.

A few examples of this can include prescriptions and literature, where a patient has to be told what they are taking, and the correct dosage so they don’t accidentally take too many and risk damaging themselves. In addition to this, anyone undergoing a procedure needs to have access to information about it.

Pamphlets and FAQs are common in healthcare, but when these are being translated, providers have to know they are still accurate, using translators who know the sector and terminology to make sure everything is as useful and watertight as can be.

There are few sectors where it is as important as in the world of medicine and healthcare to get translation right. With potential legal ramifications, as well as the fact that people’s health relies on good care and translation, any healthcare body looking to translate, be it face to face or in written form, must ensure they have a translator who is not only experienced in translation, but also medicine.

At Language Connect, we ensure that our healthcare translators are highly experienced and have medical backgrounds, while we also constantly update and train staff so you know they have the knowledge of any new protocol, laws and other important changes.

Language Connect delivers fast, accurate language translation services 24 hours a day