Clearly, the Joint Commission’s new standards refer to the education, training and experience that acting interpreters need to have as the sure way to meet the required qualifications. Not surprisingly, these standards do not tell the hospitals how to secure these qualities in people, partially because each institution is a unique environment with their very own challenges and opportunities. In reality, today, very few interpreters have this education, this training and this experience called by the standards in order to identify qualified people to do the job. This is a huge problem!
So the inevitable question appears to be: whose problem is this? The hospitals? The agencies? The interpreters? It is certainly everyone’s problem and every stakeholder should be willing to be part of the solution. A solution that allows for hospitals to provide outstanding interpreting services while keeping compliant with the new standards; the same solution that can allow Language Services Providers to partner with hospitals in order to create structured venues for interpreters to train. Training which, in time, translates into education, and with enough dedication, into experience. In summary, a solution that positions healthcare interpreting as a structured profession with the high level performance expectations that the Joint Commission, directly, or indirectly, anticipates.
Clearly, in my opinion, and prior to July when JACHO’s new standards will be fully enforced, some hospitals could truly benefit from analyzing their plan of action. They could start, for example, by looking beyond the need to merely question their Language Services Providers regarding their current contract interpreters’ qualifications. Instead, they could explore the possibility of collaborating with institutions committed to provide revolutionary hands-on training. In essence, they could be open to the value of allowing their facilities to serve as venues for practicum interpreting students, thus becoming a contributor and a catalyzer in the process of producing educated, trained and experienced interpreters. Even though the logic behind this idea is simple, the path to achieve it is not. So perhaps for now, the most important thing for everyone to remember is that we don’t have to tackle the Joint Commission’s new expectations alone. We all have much at stake…and the truth of the matter is that there is much to win and much more to lose.