I have now been traveling around the United States promoting our survey (that I mentioned in last week´s post) for about a week now. It has been a wonderful experience to meet interpreters and bilingual medical professionals and share stories about our experiences. It seems that no matter where I go, we can all agree that the Latino community is culturally rich and diverse, leaving room for the constant need for continued learning. Unfortunately, the amount of continuing education materials and courses available is scarce. To offset this insufficiency, some clinics have put into place their own continuing education systems. For example, the interpreters at one hospital write down all the words that they come across which are not as common (such as interpreting “jumping jacks” in physical therapy) and the list is sent out to the whole interpreting group on a weekly basis, after being vetted by the interpretive services coordinator. I would be interested in hearing if any readers have recommendations for continued learning. Please let me know in the comments!
Continuing education aside, there are at least the National Medical Interpreter Certifications. Though there are some fears that these certifications would be cost-prohibitive to experienced interpreters, it is important to have a way to prove one´s skill set in order to protect both the patient and the interpreting group. The two recognized exams are the NBCMI (National Board of Certification for Medical Interpreters) and the CCHI (Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters). Both cost more or less the same, though the exam itself and the frequency of recertification are different.
Nevertheless, there are currently no national nor statewide exams (at least in the Southeast) for medical professionals to prove their Spanish competency. Though some clinics and hospitals do have their providers assessed before working with Hispanic patients, many do not. Interestingly enough, some of the providers I have met communicate with Hispanic patients in Spanish without an interpreter yet have difficulties conjugating verbs in present tense and are unfamiliar with basic terms such as “hueso” (bone). Though a provider with limited Spanish who has no access to an interpreter has to do the best he or she can, with modern technology (phone interpreters) this should rarely be the case. Spanish for medical professionals courses need to be sure to prepare the professional to not only work with the patient in Spanish but also to know his or her own limits. Continuing education also needs to be improved and more widely available to better support this group. I hope that some of our current research will help with these improvements, but ideally instructors and course designers need to come together to create a more integrated system that can be used on a more national level and accessible for a variety of levels and a variety of skills improvement.
As I continue this trip for another few weeks, I hope to continue to share from the experience and knowledge of those I am meeting at each location. For now, it is goodbye North Carolina and hello South Carolina.