Last month, Alice Davé, business manager for CommGap attended the 2014 IMIA International Medical Interpreters Conference, representing both CommGap International Language Services and its sister company, Global1Voice, which focuses on the training of the medical interpreters in the Salt Lake City area, including those that work for CommGap.
The conference was held this year in Houston Texas, and featured four days of workshops, panels, and training, all centered on improving the quality of medical interpreting and training.
“I went into the conference wanting to gain a long-term vision for Global 1 Voice, and that’s exactly what I got, so I was really excited about that,” says Alice. “In everything we do we want to be the best. I came away with some great new perspectives.”
The IMIA, or International Medical Interpreters Association, is a US-based non-profit that promotes the “advancement of medical interpreters” across the world. They are at the center of the constantly evolving career of the medical interpreter, and CommGap and Global 1 Voice are active participants in these changes.
“There is a huge push in the industry right now…to standardize things on a national level.” Alice notes. While there are states that are way ahead of us (in Utah), Alice looks forward to changes that are occurring throughout the industry regarding standardization, and guarantees that CommGap will be there at the forefront to advance those changes.
“What we have done as a company over the last 14 years is to cement our reputation as a reliable and quality agency. Now what we need to do is go forward, take our training and testing arm and really make it the best,” she says.
At the conference, Alice attended various seminars and workshops that revolved around testing and training medical interpreters. She noticed that a major conversation currently in the industry involves the question, “How do we increase the value and the visibility of the language industry?” One answer has to do with medical interpreters themselves—interpreters must throw their weight behind the agencies who are working to improve the industry. “There are always two sides to the coin. There are agencies that are interested in the race to the bottom, to try and provide service at the cheapest cost. Unfortunately, this can come at a high cost to the interpreter, in the form of low wages not commensurate with their skills. It also comes at a cost to the end user, the limited-English patient, in the form of sub par interpretation that ultimately affects the level of care they receive. Then there are agencies that are working to build the industry, to make it better. These agencies value the excellent interpreters they work with, and they value the community they serve. Interpreters CAN make a difference on an individual level by putting their skills where they are valued. I want CommGap to be the best and attract the best.”
How can an interpreter know which are the good agencies to work for, and which aren’t? Alice points to the IMIA website found at www.imiaweb.org. Look for agencies that are members and contributors to the organization. Another method is word of mouth. Ask interpreters working in the industry, and get different opinions about working conditions, communication, and payment practices of the agencies you are interested in working with.
What was her favorite part of the conference? The whole thing. “In some ways, medical interpretation can be a thankless job. It’s a sort of renewal for interpreters, getting together with like-minded people to receive further training, and reignite what they are passionate about.” Seeing how far the industry has come in recent years and hearing the experiences of colleagues were highlights. “It’s about service in the community, and interpreters are very passionate about their job.”