The Top 5 Reasons Interpreters Should Attend NCIHC’s Annual Membership Meeting


If you’re a healthcare interpreter, you’ve probably heard of the National Council on Interpreting in Health Care (NCIHC). What you may not know, though, is that behind those 20+ pages long documents on the Code of Ethics and Standards of Practice for interpreters in healthcare, there is a group of lively individuals who share a common goal: language access for all.

Every year, this group holds an Annual Membership Meeting (AMM). This year, the NCIHC AMM was held in Portland, Maine, and it was my first time attending. I had a wonderful time, and highly recommend it. Below are five reasons I think interpreters should attend:

5. It’s a Standards of Practice Refresher

Even if you’ve read the NCIHC National Standards of Practice hundreds of times, it’s always nice to have a refresher. And if you think that sounds boring, you’re wrong. This year’s post-meeting workshop, which focused on Role Boundaries and Advocacy, was fun. The best part was when the workshop facilitators role-played different interpreting scenarios, and then had us get into small groups and discuss what the interpreter should do.

4. You Get to Know a City’s Culture

Prior to going to Portland, Maine, the only thing I knew about the city was that it had good seafood. It turns out that Portland is much more diverse than I ever expected. Many Haitian-Creole and Spanish speaking migrant and seasonal workers make an annual trek to work on Maine’s farms. And refugees from Syria, Iraq, the Congo, and other countries are reshaping Portland’s culture. Because of this, Maine Medical Center has a refugee clinic specifically for new arrivals who need health screenings. The demand for interpreters is high. And, if you’re wondering, Portland does indeed have delicious seafood…and many gelato shops, Indian restaurants, Japanese restaurants and more. It’s basically a foodie’s paradise. I think sometime I’ll have to go back just to eat my way through the city.

3. The Dynamic Speakers

This year’s meeting featured two great keynote speakers: Alison Beyea, Executive Director for the ACLU of Maine, and Meryl C. S. Troop, an American Sign Language interpreter and medical interpreting instructor. Troop brought humor to her keynote address, showing a slide of what different groups of people “think I do.” According to her, some hearing people think she is able to read Braille! Beyea spoke towards the current political climate, and explained how government policies are affecting immigrants and refugees. She addressed interpreters’ concerns regarding interpreting when Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is present, and encouraged us to take an active role in our communities and advocate for social justice.

2. Working Together to Find Solutions

No matter where they were from in the country, AMM attendees could relate to each other when it came to confronting difficult questions regarding language access. And going to the AMM gave us the

opportunity to have open dialogues about these questions. In the Language Access Café portion of the meeting, facilitators led conversations at different tables regarding a number of topics. Some points that were brought up were: How can we measure the professional competence of Languages of Limited Diffusion (LLD) interpreters? What education and training should interpreters have? What are the pros and cons of expanding the medical interpreter’s role to an access coordinator? It was interesting to hear from experts in the field and to share our thoughts.

1. The Camaraderie

And the best part of the NCIHC AMM? Without a doubt, it was the camaraderie. Yes, there were some interpreters there from companies I consider our competitors, but at the AMM that didn’t matter. We were all there to share and learn from each other. It was nice to be in a place where everyone just got what it’s like to be in the language access field (and, I like to joke, where everyone knew the difference between an interpreter and a translator). And, in addition to learning a lot, we also had a lot of laughs!

Did you attend the AMM in Portland? Leave a comment below about it. Didn’t make it this year? I hope to see you next year in Denver!