Alverno College Interpreter Institute
By Yesica Camacho
Since its launch in fall 2007, the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation minor at Alverno College has strengthened the language skills of bilingual students fluent in English and Spanish to prepare them for a career in healthcare interpretation. Through five courses and an intensive, semester-long internship, the program prepares students to work in a variety of healthcare settings, such as hospitals, clinics, and community health centers. Students are also well-trained to engage in telephonic or video remote interpreting, which are two platforms that are becoming increasingly popular across the country.
Given the healthcare focus, this minor naturally attracts many students who are pursuing a major in nursing; however, the program is not an option open exclusively to nursing students. Instead, it complements a number of other areas of study, such as psychology, education, communication, business, and community leadership. Many students use these courses as a springboard for applying their interpreting skills in their own respective field. That said, having a four-year degree, in addition to specialized studies in healthcare interpreting, makes Alverno graduates attractive prospects for employers. Alverno’s world-renowned curriculum focuses on 8 abilities and includes ample experiential learning opportunities to ensure the learning is student-focused, engaging and interactive.
Program admissions, courses and educational opportunities
Although the majority of the students enrolled are degree-seeking students at Alverno, individuals not enrolled in a degree program at Alverno can also take coursework toward program completion as special students. Individuals who already have a Bachelor’s degree can enroll in courses. The Admissions Office can provide more details on enrolling and financing your coursework.
Prior to admission into the program, students must demonstrate oral and written proficiency in Spanish and English through the bilingual proficiency assessment. In order to successfully complete the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation minor, students must satisfactorily finish all of the required coursework and an intensive internship. Required courses are as follows:
SPI 210: Bilingual Medical Terminology
This course introduces students to medical terminology of major body systems in Spanish and English. Terminology includes body parts, diseases, tests, and treatments.
SPI 310: Cultural Competence in Healthcare: The Latino Perspective
This course focuses on theoretical frameworks that define culture, cultural competence, and cultural proficiency to increase student’s understanding of multicultural aspects of healthcare regarding the Latino culture.
SPI 320: Advanced Interpreting Practice
This course exposes the student to challenges in a variety of healthcare settings through the use of practice drills and simulations including sight translation and consecutive and simultaneous interpretation.
SPI 350: Ethics for Healthcare Interpreters
This course is designed to prepare the student for ethical challenges she will meet in her profession. Students examine the professional ethical issues most commonly encountered in the field of interpreting, and include in its outcomes objectives of impartiality, respect, confidentiality, role boundaries, professionalism, and advocacy.
SPI 360: Translation Skills for Healthcare Interpreters
The course focuses on the language skills necessary for translation. This course reviews current grammar rules in English and Spanish and present students with an opportunity to develop the ability to identify audience, style, tone and register, and the role each of these has in written communication. Through practice and an introduction to the challenges that translators face, students problem-solve difficult linguistic constructions while refining their writing skills as they work to translate and edit medical texts from Spanish to English and English to Spanish within the framework of their role as a medical interpreter.
SPI 483: Healthcare Interpreter Internship
In this course, the student participates in a field experience that allows her to further develop the skills that she has learned in the coursework completed as part of the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation minor. She works under the direction of mentoring professionals in a health care setting to shadow and later interpret for patients during an individual field placement at a local health care organization. Students must complete a total of 120 hours on-site.
Consistent with national trends in the popularity of interpreting jobs in the coming years, (as predicted by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, which states that job growth between 2012 and 2022 will grow much faster than average at 46%), the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation program has seen a marked increase in interest and graduates in the past eight years. In the fall, for example, nine students will require internship placement among the five Milwaukee-area partnering healthcare organizations who host them – the largest group in the program’s history. (Alverno currently partners with Aurora Healthcare, Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin, Columbia-St. Mary’s Hospital, Froedtert Hospital, Waukesha Memorial Hospital, Wheaton Franciscan – Milwaukee, and Wheaton Franciscan – Racine.)
As noted earlier, experiential learning is abundant in this program. In addition to the projects woven into the required courses and the semester-long internship, students have an opportunity to participate in a short-term study abroad trip to Ecuador, allowing them to increase their cultural awareness and enhance their language skills with language instruction, home stays, and cultural excursions in the Andean mountains and the Amazon Rainforest. The trip is an optional part of the cultural competence course offered to students of any language ability on rotation.
Furthermore, as the profession evolves and national certification becomes the norm, having studied interpreting simply will not be enough to obtain nor maintain employment. “We are enhancing the opportunities for continuing education,” said Jennifer Flamboe, M.A., CHI, Associate Professor of Spanish, Director of the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation program, and Chair of the World Languages department at Alverno College. Flamboe worked in partnership with Daniel Dickover, adjunct instructor, to establish the Alverno Interpreter Institute (AII), founded in 2013, as a forum to spread information on medical interpreting through workshops, and enrichment sessions as a means for professional development to meet the growing demand for Continuing Education Units (CEUs). As an entity associated with the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation program at Alverno College, the Institute resembles program courses in its interactive, participant-focused design. Medical interpreters across all language pairs can gain knowledge and learn from one another in this venue, no matter what their skill level may be. In fact, many students attend Institute sessions and rave about the interaction they have had with working interpreters because the nature of the layout of the room and the activities facilitate an organic networking and learning experience. For information on upcoming AII workshops, visit the Alverno Interpreter Institute website.
Being an Alverno alumna and a graduate of the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation Program, I am honored to say that I was well prepared for my career as a Spanish healthcare interpreter thanks to that program. Being a heritage Spanish speaker and an interpreter for my parents all of my life, Alverno’s interpreting program drew me in through its ethics course, translation course, and the internship. I had the opportunity to intern at the Children’s Hospital of Wisconsin as a Spanish Healthcare Interpreter for the duration of one semester. During my internship at Children’s, I observed other interpreters for approximately five weeks and then interpreted on my own after successful completion of the organization’s language assessment. This internship experience allowed me to get a better understanding of the day-to-day operations as an interpreter, including its challenges and complications. Most importantly, my internship experience gave me a network of professional interpreters to whom I can turn for advice and work opportunities.
The AII and the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation curricula went beyond my expectations, playing a large role in my career goals. One of my future goals is to own a healthcare interpreter agency, and having received well-rounded training through Alverno’s interpreting minor, I am prepared to succeed as a healthcare interpreter, and I know that I will continue to expand my skills as an interpreter through AII workshops. As I continue to volunteer with the American Cancer Society as a Spanish healthcare interpreter, I am able to reflect on my education and make good use of the skills i learned through this program.
For more information on the Spanish/English Healthcare Interpretation minor at Alverno, the Alverno Interpreter Institute, future continuing education opportunities or to collaborate on experiential opportunities for students, e-mail Jennifer Flamboe, Chair of World Languages, at firstname.lastname@example.org or stay updated on related news, events, and opportunities via the program’s Facebook page: www.facebook.com/alvernointerpreting.
Yesica Comacho is a Spanish <> English interpreter. She holds a BA in Communications with Minors in Psychology and Spanish-Healthcare Interpretation.