Healthcare Interpreters: Prepare for the Changes in Our Profession!


Connecting Cultures would like to thank Eliana Lobo, M.A., CoreCHI, for contributing this article in which she generously shares highlights of her presentation for the upcoming 9th Annual TAHIT Educational Symposium!

This presentation is meant for working interpreters to understand how our profession is changing and how to prepare for the change that is happening right now. We’ll look at what is changing and how to prepare, so that we can still enjoy and find fulfillment in our work. This includes looking at self-care, and finding ways to incorporate it into our daily routine.

For those interpreters who work as independent contractors and fear some of the technological innovations that are becoming increasingly widespread, I also try and de-mystify remote interpreting to those who are still reluctant to accept either telephonic or video remote interpreting. This is where the hard data comes in to show that even post introduction of these two remote modalities, face-to-face encounters continued to increase to record breaking levels each and every year I worked at Harborview. Every year, the demand for language access increases. 

The number of face-to-face interpreted encounters has nearly doubled in the last ten years. Meanwhile, the number of video remote interpreted requests easily quadrupled over the last eight to ten years. The number of telephonic interpreted encounters, traditionally the ‘ugly duckling’ of the three existing modalities, has steadily and consistently increased over time compared to what it was a decade ago.

In short, there’s more than enough work for all of us.

What working interpreters need to realize is that as increasing numbers of encounters get moved to remote modalities, the face-to-face interpreter is left managing increasingly difficult content and challenging situations in their daily work. The appointment cancellations and referrals get shifted to telephonic. The well baby visits for immunizations, blood pressure checks and glucometer checks get taken care of via video. More and more, the onsite or independent contractor’s day is filled with encounters that take place in: intensive care units, recovery, the trauma bay, at a family conference for an end of life or organ donation discussion, procedures involving conscious sedation, E.R. for sexual assault, mental health and substance abuse intake and treatment.

This is where self-care becomes critical to quality performance on the job as well as job satisfaction and longevity. Never mind being able to maintain work-life balance. As a healthcare interpreter, you need to be taking your own pulse, keeping an eye on your own emotional well-being. Find ways to incorporate healthy practices that work for you intermittently throughout your day. This could be listening to music as you walk or drive from location to location. This encompasses making healthy food and drink choices in environments that are filled with vending machines and coffee bars. This also means mindfully choosing to participate in activities that give you joy and satisfaction that take place outside of work. This could be anything ranging from caring for a garden, walking your dog, taking a dance class, meditating, having a regular meet up with friends for dinner or a hike and a picnic. Do whatever makes you laugh, and do it regularly!

This job is going to get harder. We need to prepare by becoming our best, strongest and happiest selves!

Eliana Lobo is the former Trainer/Supervisor for Interpreter Services at Harborview Medical Center and currently is the National Director of Interpreter Quality at InDemand Interpreting. Eliana is a native speaker of English and Portuguese with 20+ years of experience as an interpreter and translator, Portuguese court and medical interpreter, Spanish and Portuguese translation supervisor, medical interpreter supervisor, CoreCHI and certified medical interpreter trainer. Eliana holds two M.A.s in Bilingual Education and Portuguese & Brazilian Studies from Brown University.  Current projects include the NCIHC’s “Home for Trainers” which creates and hosts national webinars on effective medical interpreter training.

Will you be attending the 9th Annual TAHIT Educational Symposium September 25 & 26, 2015 in Galveston, Texas? Be sure to attend Eliana’s presentation What you need to know about remote interpreting! (Including how to set up your own call center) for an even more in-depth discussion and analysis of this topic!