Contact: Claire Jones
The Philadelphia Interpreter Training Program, initiated in 1998, is designed to improve access to quality care by improving communication between health care providers and patients with limited English proficiency. Our approach is to build capacity at the institutional level and, therefore, to work with whole organizations rather than individuals. We begin by helping leadership at hospitals, clinics and other service organizations to articulate their commitment to a language access policy and to develop and implement internal protocols for using interpreters. Interpreters identified by the organization (bilingual staff, volunteers or professionals) are trained in interpretation techniques and skills for solving problems and dealing with difficult situations. At the end of training, their skills are assessed through structured observation and, if successful, they are given a certificate and specific feedback to guide their plan for continuing their professional development. Since the training for interpreters is not language specific, all interpreters from a single site may be trained together. Training is also provided to other clinical and non-clinical staff in cross-cultural health and interviewing skills and in effective ways to work with an interpreter. Following completion of training, we return after a period of time to gather feedback from administrators and training participants as to their post-training experiences and/or their needs for further support or training.
In some settings, where the desire and the capacity exist, HFP is able to facilitate a train-the-trainer process so that support for language access can be internalized. This involves a three-stage process of training the trainer, observing the trainer in action and providing feedback, and returning for another observation at a later date to promote quality assurance.
Institutions that have participated in this program report a dramatic decrease in the number of complaints received from or on behalf of patients with limited English proficiency. They also report an increase in the use of trained interpreters as a result of greater awareness of the need for and benefits of this service. Requests for this program continue to rise as institutions expand their efforts to provide culturally-competent care, improve their risk management and meet regulatory agency requirements.