Imagine feeling severe pain but not being able communicate that to your doctor. Imagine your child in pain and unable to understand what the doctors are saying about their condition. These are common scenarios for non-English-speaking patients when they seek medical attention. The development of a new profession called the medical interpreter is making these scenarios obsolete.

Around 45 million Americans cannot speak English at home. Nineteen percent cannot speak fluent English. Non-English speakers cannot communicate their symptoms and understand their doctors’ orders when they need medical care.

Some hospitals and clinics employ medical interpreters. Patients who do not have interpreters can still get substandard care. Interpreters who are not properly trained and tested can make mistakes or add information to confuse patients or doctors. These errors can lead to poor patient care and even death. The International Medical interpreters Association, the largest and most established medical interpreters association in the nation, has partnered with Language Line University, to establish a strict professional international certification program. Field experts predict that CMIs (certified medical interpreters) will be able to find many opportunities in a rewarding job in almost any language because of the expected growth.

“Medical interpreting is one of the most rewarding careers,” says Izabel S. Arocha, M.Ed., IMIA president. “You can make a real difference in the quality of care that patients experience.”

Even in economic recessions, people still require medical care. The boomer population will continue to age, and so the demand for medical care will rise. There are many educational programs available for medical interpreters at both public and private universities. Through its website, the IMIA regularly posts information on training opportunities and job openings.