Medical interpreting promotes understanding

Medical Interpreters put the “I understand” in medical visits, sometimes helping to save lives in the process.

Mary Owen, a reporter for the Northwest Boomer and Senior News, interviewed interpreters in Portland and Salem to report to the seniors in the Willamette Valley. She interviewed staff interpreters for Kaiser Permanente and Salem Hospital, a freelance interpreter, and an interpreter trainer. What did these interpreters say?

Jazmin Manjarrez, independent contractor with 12 years of experience: “I remember being in Labor and Delivery with a 16-year-old about to give birth. She was alone and scared. As the nurses prepared her for birth and doctors paraded in and out of the room, I was there interpreting everything. She thanked me and told me my presence meant a lot to her. I understood her cultural concerns and was able to explain them to the care team. And in the end, seeing new life come into this world, a life you had a small contribution in, makes all the difference.”

John Salinas, interpreter for Kaiser Permanente: “One challenge is making sure that a non-English speaker is heard and understood, and that they can fully understand the interpreter. It’s very important to make sure that the patient and doctor fully understand each other.”

Carmen Villa, certified medical interpreter for Salem Health: “A professional interpreter should not let their personal beliefs interfere with their work, and sometimes it’s hard to keep your composure. Being the voice informing family members about tragic events can make you feel awful, but it also makes you evaluate your own life and appreciate those around you a little more.”

Helen Eby, medical interpreter and interpreter trainer: “Certification didn’t make me better. It proved I had met a certain standard. I am still learning. […] As we help people connect with each other across language and cultural barriers, and they begin to understand each other, our communities become stronger. They can express themselves more freely and completely to find more in-depth solutions for their health care problems or educational issues, and maybe even find resources to connect better with their host communities.”

The full article wasn’t published online, but only in the print version. Click here to see the pdf: Medical Interpreter story METRO 2015-3

Jazmin Manjarrez, Carmen Villa and Helen Eby are Certified Healthcare Interpreters who have gone through the Oregon Certification process. They can be found on this roster, maintained by the Oregon Health Authority. This is the list of requirements for Oregon Healthcare Interpreter Certification and Qualification.