Notetaking in Medical Interpreting
Thread poster: DJBarg

DJBarg
English to Spanish
Sep 23, 2011

Hi, I wanted to consult some of the more experienced medical interpreters out there: How important is note-taking when you are medically interpreting? I've worked for years in medical translation, but now I am getting ready to take the certification in medical interpreting. However, I have never taken a class in note-taking. Many of the professional interpreters I have known (medical ones) did NOT take notes and certainly never took a class in this. When I did some volunteer interpreting quite some time ago, I did not take notes. Again, do I need to be proficient (take a class) in "note taking" before I take the certification exam? Thanks for any info offered.

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Giuseppina Gatta, MA (Hons)
Member (2005)
English to Italian
+ ...
Notetaking is personal Sep 23, 2011

I believe that notetaking is a very personal activity and nobody can teach/learn to/from anybody else.

Personally I have my own method and that can change anyway and at any time, based on what is being talked about, and all kinds of other reasons (speed of the speaker, subject, environmental conditions, etc.). My mind does not necessarily work like anybody elses' (and viceversa) so I really believe in developing your own method, if you actually really need to take notes at all.


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Sara Senft  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:25
Spanish to English
+ ...
My tips Oct 5, 2011

I've been doing medical interpreting for several years and I happen to work with the same language combination as you. I've discovered a few things along the way:

1) It doesn't matter which language you write your notes in, as long as they help you do your job. In fact, it's sometimes shorter to write something in Spanish instead of English.

2) I like to always write down certain things--such as potentially crucial information, like dates, phone numbers, identification numbers, etc. I highly recommend writing down potentially crucial information.

3) Discover what works for you.


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Claudia Brauer  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 05:25
Member (2011)
Spanish to English
+ ...
Note-taking is vital Oct 5, 2011

Unless you have an extraordinary (I mean extra-ordinary) memory, you absolutely need very good note-taking skills for most consecutive interpreting, but specially in the healthcare setting. It is absolutely crucial that you don't OMIT or CHANGE anything during the encounter. A little word here or there that you miss and it may be a formula for disaster. Note-taking, as interpreting itself, is a "practice" skill. This means, you only get good at as you practice it. Contrary to what has been said, there are courses in note-taking and it is a "skill" and thus you can learn the basics of it. I took short-hand when I was young, and that is a form of note-taking. But you just get good at it as you practice. If you want to learn how to type on a computer, you take the basic instruction and then you practice. Same with note-taking. My advise, develop a system of SYMBOLS that you understand, especially the connectors, and discover your system for the "beginning" and the "ending" of words, especially technical terms. There are a few videos on youtube that specifically show you things that work for other people and you may "copy-cat" those that might work for you. But above everything, be sure to take notes of: names of drugs prescribed, dose, frequency. Those are the most common - and potentially dangerous - mistakes.

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Notetaking in Medical Interpreting

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