Jud sitting and eagerly watching a presentation

Panel on Healthcare Interpreting Fellowships

written by Judy Shepherd-Kegl

Panel facilitated by Patty Gordon

Building on the prior Field Induction Model presentation,  a panel of fellows and fellowship supervisors from the Healthcare Interpreting Fellowships that were conducted over the past year (and prior times) met to discuss their experiences in the program and to answer questions from the audience.

The group was led by Patty Gordon and there was an excellent turn out of both fellows and fellowship supervisors, which allowed the audience a varied and deep perspective on the nature of the program.

All the fellows were certified interpreters matched with healthcare interpreting supervisors who did up to 50 hours of hands up work over their fellowship.  It quickly became clear that the actual involvement in the program far exceeded 50 hours and that interaction with the supervisor and talking about the work was as much a part of the experience as direct placements in medical settings.  In addition,  scheduling of on-site experiences, documentation, and supervision were labor intensive, but view by all as well worth the effort.

This program is unique in recruiting certified and relatively seasoned interpreters into a field induction experience.  To allow for this, the CATIE Center paid these interpreting fellows to compensate for the loss of interpreting income while participating in the program.  Supervisors on site volunteered their time and when asked their reasons for participating, a common theme was the hopes of attracting more interpreters into their areas both discipline-wise and geographically.  It was also clear that the supervisors as well as the fellows benefited greatly from this rich experience.

Issues of sustainability beyond these grant-funded experiences will be a challenge. The grant to the regional center has been extended for a year and they are currently deciding whether to place another cohort or focus on wrapping up activities over that year.  They are looking for sites to consider taking up the project or modeling experience on this project.  All the materials, forms for documentation and design are being made publicly available.

The fellows each reported out about their experiences. The site placements and experiences at each site were very different from one another, but every fellow was clearly satisfied with their experience.   The range of experiences was less than hoped overall, with many reporting that they would like to have seen a cochlear implant or participated in a birth, but in retrospect, they felt that the encounters they did experience were a good match for their level of expertise and allowed them to focus on process rather than be overwhelmed with activities that were new and less tractable.

In the cases where both the fellow and fellowship supervisor were present, the relationship that had built between them was clearly evident. One outcome of the experience reported by supervisors was an increased ability to discuss in depth and in insightful ways the assignments they shared.  In addition, the fellows reported increase comfort in the healthcare setting, increased confidence in their skills, and a sense of increased permission to themselves to advocate tactfully for what they need while interpreting in these settings.  They are better able to communicate as peers with healthcare professionals and they feel they have a better understanding of the values and goals of the healthcare personnel they work with.

Some fellows relocated to the sites they worked at, but many were moving deeper into the medical realm within agencies and organization at which they were already working, but with full supervision in their work by a qualified supervisor. All reported that they were never working without supervision. In a field where teaming is not common, this was a highly prized aspect of the program.  Unfortunately, none of the sites offered opportunities to team with Deaf interpreters.

In terms of the sites, it seems that recruiting fellows is more likely in states like Minnesota where there are strong restrictions on credentials to work in healthcare settings.  One excellent placement site failed to have a fellow apply and this was the one site in a state with less stringent restrictions.    The Field-Induction Model required an infrastructure and complex paperwork at each individual site to implement. It also required a sizeable amount of networking and organization on the part of the fellows, but overall the experience was well-worth it.  The field of medical interpreting is indebted to the Catie Center for breaking new ground in this important area of professional development.