certification for healthcare interpreters, change, health care interpreting, interpreter services, medical interpreting

New Year’s Resolutions for Healthcare Interpreters

happy new year!Just starting out?  In a rut?  Wondering how to up your game as a healthcare interpreter in 2016?  Here are some ideas to get you started!

Learn about certifying bodies for healthcare interpreters:  In the US, you might be in a state that offers state-level certification.  For most of us though, the only certification available is on a national level.  Check out the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters and the National Board for Certified Medical Interpreters.  These are the only two national certifying bodies in the US.  The National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare (NCIHC) and the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA) are professional organizations, NOT certifying bodies.  It’s important to understand the difference, especially if you’ve been certified.  If who does what is a bit murky to you, check out this short post that will clarify it.

Join a professional organization:  There are lots of professional organizations to choose from on the national and regional level, and you can join most for a very affordable membership fee.  Look for something that offers a chance to connect with other interpreters, and regular meetings.  Many also offer discounted fees for trainings.  Many professional organizations also do advocacy work for interpreters and the people they serve.  In my neck of the US (Indiana), I love the Midwest Association for Translators and Interpreters, the Southeast Medical Interpreters Association, and Community and Court Interpreters of Ohio.  They all offer regular meetings and training opportunities for interpreters and I can tell you from experience that you will be welcomed with friendly, open arms to all of these great organizations.  Take your membership a step further and ask to do volunteer work for the organization you join.

Get training!  Then get more training!  I’d recommend looking for trainings that either meet the NCIHC’s National Training Standards, or that have been approved for CEs for certified interpreters, even if you’re not yet certified.  That way you can at least be sure that the trainer and the content of the training have been vetted by a third party.  If you’ve got training, but not certification, that’s okay!  Just make sure to accurately represent your credentials in the job market.  When I was working as a Language Services Supervisor and I’d see resumes that claimed the applicant was “Bridging the Gap certified” (for example) I always bristled, and wondered what other things about our profession the applicant misunderstood.  If it’s not clear why you can’t be certified by BTG (or by any other training for that matter), you’ll find this post helpful, where I explain the difference between training certificates and certification.

Try something new, even if (or especially if!) it seems scary or difficult: Maybe you’ve been nervous about joining a professional organization and attending a meeting because you’re new in the field, or you don’t know anybody who will be there?  Believe me, I’ve been there and I’m always glad when I go.  Go ahead, jump in with both feet and I bet you’ll have a good experience!  And if you’re a seasoned interpreter, seek out an opportunity to mentor a new interpreter.  You will learn a lot in the process while providing valuable guidance to someone who’s walking the same steps you did when you were new.  Maybe you’d like to attend a workshop for court and legal interpreters if you’ve been working in healthcare for a long time, and see what they’re doing in another field.  Or maybe you’d like to submit a proposal to present at a conference?  Even if your proposal isn’t accepted, it will be an exercise in preparing and submitting a proposal.

Maybe you’ve been thinking about certification but haven’t taken the first step?  Go on and do it!  Grab an interpreter friend or two and make it a group effort!  If you’re wondering how to get started, check out the blog archives from 2015–there are several posts about how I prepared my (now former) staff interpreters for national certification from beginning to end.

I felt happy in 2015 about getting my Language Services office at Indiana University Health approved as an oral exam site for the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters!  I also coached my staff through to their national certification exams, which they passed at the end of 2015.  It was a bit scary for all of us to go through since failure is always a possibility, but I think in the end we all agreed that it was worth making an effort and that the real failure would have been to not try at all.  I also got to do my first webinar (thanks, MATI!), and moved to Toronto for my second year of grad school for conference interpreting.

This year my priority is to finish graduate school in Toronto, and then this summer I’ve got some trainings penciled in, and I’ll make it to some conferences and meetings as well–maybe I will even get to see some of you.

Best wishes to everyone for a happy and healthy 2016!  Feel free to add your resolutions in the comments!




2 thoughts on “New Year’s Resolutions for Healthcare Interpreters”

  1. Hi Liz! I’ve enjoyed reading your blog as I look into becoming certified, but I’m feeling a bit overwhelmed and not sure where to start. What is the difference between CCHI and NBCMI? After I pass the training course, I can register for either the CCHI or NBCMI and take that exam correct? Am I understanding the steps? Thank you for your help!

    1. Hey Aremi! Thanks for reading and commenting. Both CCHI and NBCMI are valid exams, recognized nationally, and it’s your choice which one to go with. One thing to consider is if your language is offered for the oral exam. I chose CCHI for a few reasons, one of which is that I liked that it tests simultaneous interpreting, which I find I use quite a bit in the healthcare setting. My best advice is for you to check out the candidate handbooks that you can find on their respective websites. When I applied for my exam in 2012, I remember that in addition to training, you had to have proof that you’d been working at least a year as a medical interpreter, but that might have changed. You’ll want to look at the websites for the most up-to-date information. Once you commit to an exam, you can check out my posts on how to prepare. Good luck!

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