How to get a truly professional medical translation

We'll cover what’s important when looking for certified medical translation services.

How to get a truly professional medical translation

We'll cover what’s important when looking for certified medical translation services. Image by Andrew Neel on Unsplash.

When you have sensitive documents to translate (for example, from English into Italian), finding the right translator for a professional medical translation can be a daunting task.

If you perform a Google search, you’ll get an endless list of both freelancers and companies. It’s hard to understand who could be a good match for you. Luckily, there are a few criteria to help you decide. Let’s look at them below!

The right medical translation service: what to look for

Specialist knowledge is important for a smooth translation process. Image of medical books by Photouser23 on Pixabay.

Firstly, find a professional translator who isn’t “just” a general linguist. Of course, they should have solid translation training, but they must specialise in professional medical translation services (online or offline) into Italian. This is crucial to guarantee the highest standards.

Secondly, they should translate medical documents into their native language (or speak the target language at native level). Now, let’s check some of the other essentials you need to pay attention to.

Good qualifications in medical translations

Medical documents should only be translated by professionals. Image of Chiara Vecchi's hands taking notes.

The translator’s website should show their translation qualifications, and the fact they belong to a professional translation association. This means they adhere to a code of conduct and commit to continuous professional development through courses and webinars.

For example, I belong to TradInFo, an Italian association of translators and interpreters. To remain a member, I have to achieve a set amount of training days each year, so my clients can rest assured that my subject expertise in medical translation is always up-to-date.

Contact with experts in the medical industry

A trusted healthcare professional should advise on medical terminology. Image of a doctor looking at his mobile phone by National Cancer Institute on Unsplash

One of my professors used to say: “You don’t need to know how to perform brain surgery to translate about it. But you need to understand what the surgeon is saying if they’ll talk to you”.

So, your chosen medical translator doesn’t need to know how to perform a C-section or how to treat acne. However, they should be able to understand a text about gynaecology or dermatology. How do they achieve this?

Medical translators read extensively and regularly consult experienced healthcare professionals if they have questions. Why? Because they need to make sure that your documents are easily understandable, both by patients and by medical staff.

Whether it’s a patient consent form or a specialised peer-reviewed immunology article, tone of voice and legibility are crucial to get right in the medical field. For example, I work daily with a GP to make sure that your message comes across in the right way. After discussing the most challenging passages of a text, he also may refer me to specialist medical professionals who are experts in their field for more information.

Good references for medical translation projects

Whether you hire a freelance translator or a medical translation company, good references are crucial. Image by Adrian on Pixabay

I understand it’s not easy to trust someone you don’t know with your medical translation into Italian. While some translators’ credentials and experience might sound appealing, it’s sometimes hard to verify if the quality of their work will really match your expectations. This is especially challenging when you need to find an expert quickly.

A good strategy, in this case, is to check the translators’ websites and social media profiles, such as LinkedIn. Do their profiles and posts look professional?

Also, look for positive feedback from previous customers in the medical sector. These may include testimonials from a medical translation agency, a health brand, a medical journal, or a healthcare professional. Another good place to look for is a translator’s Google My Business profile and reviews.

Being able to work both alone and as a team member

Good translators should have extensive experience. Image of people taking notes by difisher on Pixabay

Some medical translation projects require more than one person. Maybe there is a lot of material to be translated all at once, or perhaps it’s a collaboration of translators and reviewers. In both cases, you need to make sure that your freelancer of choice is accountable for their work while still being a valuable team member.

For example, as an in-house medical translator, I worked on projects involving two to five team members. Now, as a freelancer, I collaborate daily on medical translations that involve many colleagues in different roles. I also partnered successfully with other freelancers working on medical projects, both as a translator and reviewer.

Excellent customer service skills

Expert linguists also need to offer professional customer service. Image of people shaking hands by Cytonn Photography on Unsplash

Even if you hire the best medical translators in the world: if they’re not 100% focused on you and your needs, they won’t be right for you. You may want to choose a reliable communicator who’ll update you regularly on the medical translation service they provide. Or you may prefer someone who’ll be able to work independently on your whole project and just deliver it once done.

Hire a translator you can easily reach on more than one channel, such as email, phone, or LinkedIn. That way, you’ll always have a Plan B!

Ideally, your translator shouldn’t take too long to respond to questions or requests during working hours. You should also know in advance if they won’t be available because of conferences or personal travel.

During my time as a customer service specialist, I learnt how to take care of my clients: I knew their preferences, what was important to them, and what made their life easier. The result: a friendly, yet professional relationship with my customers. Of course, I have transferred this skill set to my translation clients (including those in the medical industry).

Research skills and questions about terminology

Medical translators will spend time and effort to get your medical documents right. Image of a transparent skull by jesse orrico on Unsplash

You might think that receiving questions from your translator shows a lack of knowledge about a medical topic. Or, perhaps you regard answering a list of queries as a waste of time.

But: although dealing with these questions may take a little effort, they are proof that your medical translator is doing their research and is committed to delivering a quality medical translation of your materials. For example, you might work on a new drug where there is very little reference material online or in academic journals, so your translator may have to clarify a few things with you. After all, it’s crucial to get the medical terminology right.

Great proofreading skills

Proofreading skills are crucial when offering medical translation services. Image of two proofreaders by Gabrielle Henderson on Unsplash

Maybe your colleagues have missed a few typos here and there. Not to worry. A good medical translator wants both your English and Italian texts to be in the best shape for your target audience, so they’ll make a polite note to flag any spelling errors. A second pair of eyes can be quite helpful to you, especially if you’re busy!

And: attention to detail can make the difference between a medical paper being accepted or rejected. That’s why I’m always pleased when I can help find spelling mistakes or even factual errors in medical documents.

Do you have questions about my medical translation services?

All of the above factors are important when creating your shortlist of good translators. If you have more questions, or if you need an Italian medical translator, I’d be happy to chat with you by email or in an informal call.