So You Want to be an American Sign Language Medical Interpreter?


Sight translation by Mary Luczki.

At InDemand, we work diligently to be the best medical video remote interpreting company; it’s our specialty. It’s a niche in a growing market that takes time, dedication, continuing education and commitment to not only set the bar, but to raise the bar for all other video remote interpreting companies. This philosophy applies to every department and the impact of that philosophy is directly felt by our patients. On the frontlines are our interpreters and their specialty as medical interpreters is what sets them and InDemand apart from all other video remote companies.

To develop a specialty in medical interpreting takes time, training and experience and fortunately there are incredible resources, both online and onsite, that can give an ASL interpreter the opportunity to take the leap from being an “interpreter that works in medical settings” to a “medical interpreter.” Below are resources that make taking that  leap possible and ultimately provides Deaf patients with more experienced and qualified interpreters.

CATIE Center:

The CATIE Center (Collaborative for the Advancement of Teaching Interpreting Excellence) located in St. Paul, Minnesota, focuses on the advancement and training for interpreters in healthcare settings. They offer several online workshops that look at the different body systems and how to best express them in ASL. Additionally they offer healthcare interpreting fellowships, medical interpreting immersion and a National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting. The body language workshops cost $50, last six weeks and are self-paced. They include:

The above website is maintained by the CATIE Center and offers additional resources and tools for healthcare interpreters. Some of these resources include:

  • Videos
  • Teaching Resources
  • Best Practices
  • Independent Studies
  • Workshops and Trainings (in addition to the Body Language workshops from CATIE)

Certificate in Healthcare Interpreting (CHI) from Rochester Institute of Technology/National Institute of Technology for the Deaf (RIT/NTID)

The CHI program at RIT/NTID is a 160 hour program that is comprised of online and onsite instruction. Participants spend the first week of the nine month program in Rochester, NY before transitioning to the online portion. The program intensely explores “...anatomy and physiology (structure and function), specialized terms, health care provider specialties, medical tests, procedures and equipment, common medications and common conditions/diseases.” Additionally “...the course also addresses the theoretical constructs and the approach to the practice of interpreting based on the demand-control schema.”

Potential participants can apply by March 15th and if accepted, start the program in June. While the program requires a small financial investment from the participants, the return on the investment is plentiful. Currently, RID has not approved of a national specialist certificate for medical interpreters, however there is a strong grassroots push to change this. If a national specialist certificate becomes available and the specialist certificate becomes necessary to work in medical settings, documented training and experience will be necessary. The CHI program is the only active, non-degree seeking, medical interpreting program available to sign language interpreters that would provide participants with a remarkable edge when distinguishing themselves from others in this field.

UCSD Oncology Training Program

This program was funded by a grant from the National Cancer Institute in order to better equip the Deaf community and interpreters when working together in oncological environments. Currently the videos and resources are offered as a self-paced resource for interpreters to explore different cancers, symptoms, treatments, along with medical terminology and definitions. While not an active training program anymore, the resources are still available for interpreters to deepen their understanding of oncology and how to best express various cancers, symptoms, treatments, tests, risk factors etc in ASL.

As in any practice profession, regular skill and knowledge development is necessary. Successful ASL interpreters will realize where their subject matter passions lie and then commit to finding resources, mentors, and learning opportunities to deepen their knowledge base. Whether an interpreter’s passion is in education, medical, legal, theater etc., there are always opportunities for growth. If an interpreter’s passion is in the medical setting, then the above resources are the perfect place to start as you try to distinguish yourself as not just another interpreter in a medical setting but a medical interpreter.

All InDemand American Sign Language (ASL) interpreters and Certified Deaf Interpreters (CDIs) are credentialed by the Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf (RID) and, on average, have more than 15 years of experience.

VRI for Deaf and HOH

Subscribe Here!