Why Being an Interpreter is a Good Career Move for Foreign Trained Health Care Professionals

Immigrating to a new country is rarely a stress-free experience. Even with the best made plans, adjusting to a new culture, system and language is a hard transition. It could even be said that these transitions and adjustments may be hardest felt by professionals with higher education, and successful careers, before arriving in Canada. Hardest because the move is not a sideways one for professionals, but usually is a step down.

Frequently professionals that enjoyed a successful career in their home country have to take on jobs and roles for which they are overqualified, at least for a time. This is usually experienced as a lowering of one’s status. Sometimes they end up working in jobs that are within the same field or sector, although not the same careers, just to gain some familiarity their chosen field in Canada, but not always. And often times they are just “out-of-the-loop” (not aware) about what it is like to work in Canada as a health care professional.

The post-secondary education – the lessons and courses taken – to become a health care professional are taught as a formal program, but it is often the unspoken and informal that is most difficult to learn. There are no lesson plans for that, and the few intercultural or cross-cultural workshops that exist may still not provide in-the-field experience. The education of understanding a new system, creating new networks, observing how people interact with each other and with patients, that is an education that is best gained by doing. But how do you get that if you can’t even work in the field?

Interpreting in health care settings is a smart professional career move for health care professionals that were trained outside of Canada. It provides them with an entry into the Canadian health care system while learning, contributing and make some an income. Health care interpreters work alongside health care professionals to ensure that accurate communication across languages and cultures happens. They work for the health care system so that the system can work for their clients and patients. It is a mutually respectful, team environment and provides endless value and benefits to professionals seeking Canadian credentials.

What are some of the benefits?

Learning System

The best way to understand a system is to work within it. Of course, one can learn how the system is structured, who are the people that work in the system, what are the rules and protocols, who makes the policies, etc., in a very practical way. But to experience how people interact and the power dynamics, observing unspoken procedures and hearing the tones that people use to speak to each other, those sorts of system realities are best learned when IN the system. Much like the difference between learning a language in a classroom or full immersion in the country where the language is spoken. It does not compare.

Meet New People

Meet new people that share the same passion for the work that you do and gain new friendships that will open up your world. You know that people that share the same love of the work also share a language that is beyond geographic or ethnic languages. It is a language of the profession.

Form New Professional Networks

It is always said, it is not WHAT you know, but WHO you know. Working in the field gives you access to inside news and information. Maybe someone knows someone else that can assist you with your re-credentialing process, a tutor or a mentor. Maybe you will meet someone that is conducting research that is very similar to the research you have already done, or something you had hoped to do.

Gain a Sense of Security and Comfort

Walking into a new environment is always a little intimidating, even for the most confident of us. Working as an interpreter allows you access to places that the general public cannot go, behind the scenes at the hospital or the clinic. Experience what it feels like to be on the other side of health care, as a professional, in Canada. This exposure is so helpful for future events, when you will need to walk into places as a credentialed Canadian health care professional.

While we expect that foreign trained health care professionals will move on from interpreting once they have acquired their Canadian credentials in their chosen profession, we also know that the process of training and working as an interpreter creates allies that will serve the interpreting profession well into the future. Only experienced interpreters know how hard it is to BE an interpreter, and how much interpreting is about so much more than language.

Actually, It is a win-win situation: foreign trained health care professionals gain exposure, experience and income and the interpreting profession gains some well informed and supportive future allies. How can we not like that?

Are you a foreign-trained health care professional that has worked as an interpreter? We would love to hear your thoughts on this. Are there any other benefits that we did not list? Any comments that you would like to share?