Promoting certification, a Colorado hospital story:
It takes compassion, commitment to patient-centered care, and asking the right questions
About Valley View: Valley View Hospital, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, is a member of the Planetree Alliance and prides itself on providing the best quality of care to their diverse patients.
Valley View Hospital staff: Left to right, top row: Abigail Jones, Luisa Angelica Sanchez, Samantha Valencia (CHI™-Spanish), Tania Cardenas-Portillo, Sandra Elisabet Ursino-Gould; Front row: Stephen Patrick Morris II, Andreia Barros Poston, Maria Selene Lujan, Viviana Nevarez (CHI™-Spanish), Rosa Isela Gonzalez Ortega, Alicia Cabrera
Samantha Valencia has been working in Radiology Department at Valley View Hospital for over 10 years. And from the very beginning, she and her coworker Viviana Nevarez were asked to interpret for Spanish speaking patients. Samantha very quickly realized that for a bilingual employee providing interpreting services it's important to have proper training and qualifications in interpreting. Also, for consistency of services to patients with limited English proficiency, the hospital needs to have an established structure of coordinating interpretation provided by bilingual employees who perform other duties.
She went to the HR department with questions. "When I do my job in Radiology, I'm expected to have certain qualifications. So when I am asked to interpret, shouldn't I possess professional qualifications specific to interpreting? If I'm not certified, how do you know that I can interpret? Doesn't the hospital expose itself to liability if bilinguals whose competency has not been assessed against a valid professional standard are allowed to interpret?"
Valley View Hospital's HR leadership took Samantha's concerns to heart. They understand that patients expect and deserve to have all members of their care team qualified. And interpreters are equal members of the patient care team along with other allied health professionals.
With the hospital's support, Samantha, Viviana and their co-worker Lorena Arroyo got certified by CCHI; they are proud holders of the CHI™-Spanish certification. "We chose CCHI for a number of reasons. CCHI's written exam is very comprehensive; it tests our knowledge of the professional conduct and healthcare settings, in addition to medical terminology. And the simultaneous component of the oral exam is extremely important since this skill is needed to interpret in emergency department and in emotionally-charged situations," said Samantha.
But this is not the end of the story. Daniel Biggs, FACHE, Chief HR Officer, recognized that three certified dual-role interpreters are not able to meet their patients’ needs. And with his support, this spring, Wendy Tennis, Planetree Coordinator, was tasked with identifying and training as interpreters other bilingual staff in the hospital. This HR initiative also received full support from all department managers.
"After we've selected our bilingual staff who were eager to learn the intricacies of the interpreting profession, I went to Beth Shaw of the Colorado Mountain College for advice. We are lucky to have them," says Wendy. "They helped us select an experienced healthcare interpreter trainer, offered their facility for the training, and act as the testing site for the CCHI's written and oral certification exams," continues Wendy.
Wendy concludes, “Our support for the interpreter certification stems from our embracing the Planetree’s philosophy: care should be organized first and foremost around the needs of patients. And if our patients don’t speak English, they deserve to have interpreters whose competency meets the national standards. The best care is possible only when you have a system-wide understanding of what patient-centered care truly means and when you have and nurture the best professionals.”