Updated: Apr 20
One of the many blessings of being a freelancer is that I get to choose who I collaborate with. I also decide the type of work I want and set my terms and conditions.
I began freelancing part-time in 2011. I had just completed my licentiate in Translation and Interpreting at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona (Spain). A licentiate is a 4- to 5-year degree that used to be available in Spain before the Bologna Process was fully implemented.
According to Spain's Royal Decree 967/2014 of November 21, a licentiate is equivalent to a master's degree. Like in most Western countries, college students in Spain must now complete a bachelor's degree and a master's degree to achieve the equivalent of a licentiate.
While I had been providing in-house translation services since my career began in 2004, I realized that self-employment was a better fit. I've been working full-time on a freelance basis since 2016. That's when I moved from Spain to the United States. Aside from translation, I started providing interpreting services in 2018.
For a long time, I refused to choose a specialization because I thought I would be limiting myself. While living in Spain, most of my translation projects were for banks and IT companies. In the US, however, I began focusing on work for clinics and hospitals. That's how I ended up specializing in healthcare and medicine.
As a person who had favored humanities over sciences, my goal wasn't originally to become a medical translator. I thought only doctors could do that, but I was wrong. In the words of Marla O'Neill, "good medical translation can be done by both medical professionals and medically knowledgeable linguists (1998: 80)."
I aimed to become an audiovisual translator for many years, but it wasn't what I expected. I tried other fields, but none of them were fulfilling enough. Still, I learned valuable skills, such as formatting, localization, subtitling, transcreation, and transcription.
When I tried medical translation, everything clicked. As a kid, I was fascinated by the Once Upon a Time... Life (Érase una vez... la vida in Spanish) animated series about the human body for children. I considered becoming a physician for some time, but it was a lifelong love for communication and foreign languages that prevailed.
Not only did I remember everything I had learned about natural science at school, but I also noticed I was good at translating medical documents. At last, my childhood dream of helping others live better and longer lives was happening. I wasn't a physician, but I was helping bridge communication and language barriers in healthcare settings.
Each translation project teaches me something new. Although learning while working is priceless, I realized that I needed to invest in education to access more opportunities. Some projects, especially the more technical ones, require a knowledge level that cannot be attained with episodic research.
The following is a list of some relevant learning opportunities* that I've completed over the last few years:
Advanced Grammar (two-hour course; LinkedIn Learning; 2020)
Basics of Readability (one-hour webinar; ACES: The Society for Editing; 2020)
Biology & Lexicon of a Stroke (one-hour webinar; Utah Translators & Interpreters Association; 2020)
Body-Related Idioms (two-hour webinar; Blue Urpi; 2021)
Cardiovascular System (two-hour webinar; Blue Urpi; 2021)
Clinical Terminology for International & US Students (one-month course; University of Pittsburgh; 2020)
Communication Tips (four-hour course; LinkedIn Learning; 2020)
Contrast Media in Medical Imaging (one-hour webinar; American Society of Radiologic Technologists; 2020)
Copyediting & Proofreading as Part of the Translation Process (one-hour webinar; Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters; 2018)
Coronavirus Fundamentals for Translators & Interpreters (two-hour webinar; Blue Urpi; 2020)
Drugs & Medicines (two-hour webinar; Blue Urpi; 2021)
Drugs, Alcohol & Fentanyl: Interpreting for Chemical Dependency Patients (four-hour webinar; Nevada Interpreters & Translators Association; 2021)
Drugs, Medication & Pharmacology (one-hour webinar; American Translators Association; 2021)
Editing & Proofreading Made Simple (one-hour course; 2020)
Editing Bibliographies & Texts with Bibliographical References (four-hour webinar; Asociación Uruguaya de Correctores de Estilo; 2020)
Editing Translations (one-hour webinar; ACES: The Society for Editing; 2020)
Formatting in MS Word (one-hour webinar; Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters; 2017)
Fundamental Neuroscience for Neuroimaging (one-month course; The Johns Hopkins University; 2020)
Healthcare Interpreting (one-hour webinar; Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters; 2018)
HIPAA Compliance (one-hour course; Resolute Interpreting; 2020)
Imaging for Translators & Interpreters (two-hour webinar; Blue Urpi; 2020)
Interpreter Ethics & Best Practices for Interpreters (one-hour course; Resolute Interpreting; 2020)
Introduction to Biomedical Imaging (three-month course; The University of Queensland; 2021)
Introduction to Statistics (four-month course; Salt Lake Community College; 2020)
Mandatory Terminology in the Pharmaceutical Industry (one-month course; AulaSIC; 2021)
Medical Terminology: Problem Solving through Parallel Texts (one-hour webinar; American Translators Association; 2020)
Navigating Oncology (two-hour webinar; Utah Translators & Interpreters Association; 2020)
Occupational Hazards in Medical Imaging (one-hour webinar; American Society of Radiologic Technologists; 2020)
PDFs, OCR & Formatting (one-hour webinar; Midwest Association of Translators & Interpreters; 2018)
Plain Language & Translation (two-hour webinar; Atlanta Association of Interpreters & Translators; 2021)
Radiographic Densities: Why Adipose Tissue Matters (one-hour webinar; American Society of Radiologic Technologists; 2020)
Style Guidelines for Drafting & Translating Technical/Scientific Texts (one-month course; AulaSIC; 2021)
Translating Diagnostic Imaging (one-hour webinar; American Translators Association; 2020)
Writing in Plain English (two-hour course; LinkedIn Learning; 2020)
As an ATA-certified translator (English-Spanish), I must take 20 continuing education credits every three years to retain my certification. Additionally, I believe that professional development is a must to excel and meet your clients' needs at all times. That's why I'm currently taking the following:
How to Write Medical Reports Clearly & Effectively (ten-hour course; Institut de Formació Mèdica i Lideratge)
Master of Medical Translation (eight-month program; AulaSIC)
Program for Spanish Interpreters (forty-hour program; Medical Interpreting Training School)
Writing in the Sciences (two-month course; Stanford University)
AulaSIC's Master of Medical Translation comprises a minimum of eight courses. At present, I'm studying a mandatory one on Medical Terminology and an optional one on Chemistry for Patent & Medical Translators. The next one will be about Translation of Clinical Trial Protocols.
Specializing helped me realize that I wasn't limiting myself as I had initially thought. It has prompted me to expand beyond translation and interpreting. That is, I'm becoming a medical writer!
Last Friday, I attended the 2021 AMWA Rocky Mountain Chapter Annual Conference. AMWA stands for American Medical Writers Association, which I've just joined. The conference was an excellent opportunity to meet other medical writers virtually and learn from their experience.
While I will continue to call diagnostic imaging my favorite medical field, I've decided to start a rebranding process. Therefore, Translating Medical Images is now known as The Medical Communicator. Besides medical translation and interpreting, I plan to add medical writing as a service.
As I continue reading books, taking courses, and attending events, I'm open to new opportunities to start my career as a medical writer.
Feel free to contact me if you'd like to learn more. I look forward to creating accessible and accurate content for as many people as I can!
*Click here to access an updated, extended version of my continuing education and professional development credits.