New course in healthcare interpreting

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 9, 2011

A new two-year degree program in Healthcare Interpreting at Davidson County Community College will be offered in 2012 providing students with a convenient and affordable path to a health care career as an interpreter.
Hospitals, clinics and emergency rooms see increasing numbers of patients with limited English proficiency, and the need for more qualified interpreters is growing. Health care interpreters are required to know more than language skills since they must understand and translate medical terminology from doctor to patient and vice versa.
Prospective students must be proficient in English and Spanish, able to orally interpret, and must translate written text from Spanish to English and from English to Spanish. Program applicants will be assessed on both Spanish and English fluency.
The Healthcare Interpreting program at DCCC will begin in August 2012, with students registering now to take supporting courses offered in January 2012. The two-year degree program is the first of its kind in North Carolina and among only a few in the United States, according to Rose McDaniel, associate dean of DCCCís School of Health, Wellness and Public Safety.
Jobs for healthcare interpreters are expected to grow by 22 percent over the next decade, and interpreters make an above average wage.
ěHealthcare is a growing career field with no shortage of good job opportunities,î said McDaniel. ěHealthcare interpreters are in great demand according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, and salaries are lucrative with hourly wages ranging from $25 to $50, depending on location,î said McDaniel.
As baby boomers continue to age, even more healthcare jobs will be created to serve the large population group. Healthcare interpreters are already in high demand, according to McDaniel. Other factors driving the need for healthcare interpreters are an influx of non-native speakers to the U.S. including 31 million Spanish speakers and a federal law that requires hospitals to furnish non-native speakers with an interpreter.
Using a federal grant, Wake Forest University and DCCC collaborated to create and offer the new program. The curriculum was designed by Dr. Olgierda Furmanek, an associate professor in the romance languages department. She said it is one of only three such degree programs in the nation.
In 2008, Wake Forest University used a $155,000 federal Workforce Innovations in Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant to design the courses and two-year associate degree program that will be offered by DCCC. The North Carolina Community College System approved the new Healthcare Interpreting program in July 2010.
ěHealthcare interpreting is a fascinating new field that combines language, culture and medicine,î said Furmanek. ěThere are few training programs for healthcare interpreters nationwide, and these only offer a certificate of completion, not a full-fledged degree as does the new one at DCCC.î
The curriculum is research-based, and students will be exposed to exactly what happens in their brains when they interpret Spanish into English. ěThey will be taught methods for good memory recall, communication across cultures, interpersonal psychology, professional ethics and medical terminology,î Furmanek explained.
Furmanek said healthcare interpreters bridge the language barrier between the patient and medical professionals. ěTrained medical interpreters bring more efficiency to the overall operation. Without interpreters present, mistakes can happen, and they can be costly and tragic,î she explained.
A recent study by Mathematica Policy Research found that using trained interpreters in emergency rooms significantly improved satisfaction for both healthcare providers and non-English speaking patients. ěWe need to begin thinking of healthcare or medical interpreters the same way we do legal interpreters because both are paraprofessional fields,î said Furmanek.
For more information on the Healthcare Interpreting program at DCCC, visit or contact Ron Jones, DCCCís health careers counselor in the DCCC admissions office, at (336) 249-8186, ext. 6206, or email him at