While the height of the pandemic is long over, it lingers over the landscape. Plus, the experiences many medical interpreters had altered their perceptions of their careers. If you’re wondering how COVID has affected the medical interpretation industry, here’s what you need to know.
COVID-19 threw the world into turmoil, fundamentally altering daily life for essentially everyone. Additionally, the coronavirus strained a variety of industries, though few were impacted quite like the healthcare sector, including the medical interpretation industry.
During the height of COVID, healthcare professionals at every level saw their personal risk rise. Medical interpreters weren’t universally exempt from that, particularly those working for healthcare organizations that didn’t support remote interpretation. However, even when medical interpreters could work from home, the impact of COVID remained significant.
How COVID Affected the Medical Interpretation Industry
COVID’s impact on the world at large is nearly indescribable. Everyone’s experience was challenging, but the difficulties were often highly unique.
However, the medical interpretation industry saw specific issues arise that were broadly experienced. As a result, the sector was fundamentally altered due to the pandemic.
Increased Demand Puts Pressure on Medical Interpreters
During the height of COVID-19, demand for medical interpreters rose at a shockingly quick rate. Primarily, this was due to high hospital occupancy rates. While seeking emergency healthcare services, patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) typically need an interpreter to communicate effectively with their care team.
In the United States, there are more than 25 million LEP individuals ages five and up. Comparatively, estimates suggest there are less than 20,000 medical interpreters currently working in the United States. As a result, while not every LEP individual needed care during COVID, the number that did far outpaced the number of interpreters available.
As a result, medical interpreters were put under extreme amounts of pressure to try and keep up, even though the number of patients they needed to serve was functionally unmanageable. Along with rising stress levels, many felt they couldn’t offer the ideal quality of care due to having to move quickly, causing frustration to build with relative speed.
Health Concerns Prompted Some Medical Interpreters to Quit
Medical interpreters employed by emergency medical service providers ended up in a challenging position during the pandemic. Some hospitals strove to force medical interpreters to remain on-site during COVID-19, a situation that put medical interpreters at risk of infection due to close proximity to patients suffering from the devastating illness.
While some medical interpreters pushed forward, others determined the risk wasn’t worthwhile. If their employer was insistent about working on-site, some medical interpreters opted to quit as a means of protecting their health.
As a result, while there was a shortage of medical interpreters before the pandemic, the availability of medical interpreters began falling further. This put additional strain on those who remained, which led to burnout.
Burnout Rates Rose, Causing Some Interpreters to Leave the Industry
Whether working on-site or remotely, medical interpreters bore a burden during the pandemic. Along with rising patient numbers, medical interpreters saw the devastation of COVID-19 directly, not unlike other healthcare professionals.
Having to interpret difficult information about how dire a patient’s case isn’t easy and can lead to mental health challenges even when it’s rare. As medical interpreters had to deliver bad news regularly, stress levels skyrocketed, causing many medical interpreters to burn out.
When burnout occurs, the only reprieve could be leaving the medical interpretation industry. Again, this worsened the pre-existing shortage. While such dire conditions aren’t as common today, not everyone who left during the pandemic returned, making a long-term challenge even harder to navigate today.
The Rise of Technology-Forward Solutions
While the medical interpretation industry faced significant challenges during COVID-19, it also spurred opportunities for technology-forward language service providers. Video remote interpretation services allow companies to support healthcare facilities all across the country, reducing internal workloads and increasing accessibility.
Plus, video remote medical interpretation providers can often support a wider array of languages, as their teams are far larger and have greater collective fluency. These solutions are also affordable for healthcare organizations, highly portable, and can meet various compliance and privacy standards.
Are You Technology-Forward Medical Interpretation Provider?
At Acutrans, we know that high accessibility is critical for medical interpretation. Along with holding ourselves to the highest standards, we embrace technical innovations that can support the changing interpretation needs of healthcare organizations.
If you need a capable medical interpreter, Acutrans is an industry-leading solution that covers over 200 languages. Along with video remote interpretation, we have on-site and over-the-phone programs to further enhance accessibility. Acutrans can also provide certified medical document translations in 24 hours or less.
By having experienced, knowledgeable, and compassionate medical interpreters and translators by your side, your healthcare organization gets top-notch results while improving patient care. If you’re ready to partner with a leading language service provider, Acutrans provides a dependable, professional solution. Contact us for a free quote today.