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CATIE Center symposium helps move profession towards national standards

Symposium participants using American Sign Language during a small-group discussion.
Symposium participants using American Sign Language during a small-group discussion.
Photo courtesy of the CATIE Center.

When it comes to organizing a healthcare interpreting conference, no one does it like the CATIE Center at St. Catherine University. St. Kate’s National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting remains the only such event in the United States for sign language interpreters working in healthcare settings. 

More than 100 participants from across the nation have registered for event, which will be held July 22-25 in Coeur de Catherine on the St. Paul campus.

“There are national conferences for spoken language interpreters in healthcare that signed language interpreters can attend,” explains Laurie Swabey, CATIE Center director. “However, this is the only national conference for healthcare interpreters that has ASL-English interpreting as a focus.”

Currently, no national credential or certification exists specifically for healthcare interpreters — only general certification and certification in legal and educational interpreting. But spoken language interpreters are moving in that direction, according to the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare. National certification, it reports on its website, “would provide greater credibility, legitimacy and recognition to the profession thereby advancing the field and making it a more attractive career path on a par with other allied health professions.”

One of the goals of the CATIE center symposium is to improve the access that Deaf, hard of hearing and deaf-blind people have to communicate about their health.

“By bringing together Deaf and hearing healthcare interpreting practitioners, educators and researchers, we will deepen our understanding of effective practices in healthcare interpreting, moving closer to national standards,” says Swabey.

Swabey is one of the editors of the book, In Our Hands — Educating Healthcare Interpreters. She co-authored the first chapter "Domains and Competencies for Healthcare Interpreting: Applications and Implications for Educators" with St. Kate's graduate Quincy Craft ’09, now a freelance interpreter in the Twin Cities. The chapter was based on breakout session notes culled from the first healthcare interpreting symposium on campus in summer 2010.

The symposium also aims to improve understanding of the complex role of interpreters, including the linguistic, cultural, social and ethical challenges inherent in healthcare settings.

“Having worked as a healthcare interpreter for over 10 years, much of the symposium content served to reinforce the work that I have done and the information I have taught,” wrote Laurie Nash, director of interpreting at Sorenson Communications, in NYC Metro RID, Inc. News following the 2010 symposium. “…oftentimes, our professional discussions are limited to colleagues from our immediate area, and it is comforting to know that the work [we each] provided is in line with how other respected professionals are doing their work. This is the value of a national symposium.”

Symposium agenda and public events
Keynote topics at the 2012 National Symposium on Healthcare Interpreting include interpreting dysfluent language in medical settings, video remote interpreting in healthcare settings, and building communication equity through interpreter education and research.  

Presentations will be given in English or ASL depending on speaker, and most breakout sessions will incorporate small- or large-group discussion.

Monday and Tuesday evening programs are free and open to the public:
  • Film screening / "Signing On" (July 23, 6:30 p.m. Jeanne D'Arc Auditorium) — This film about the experiences of Deaf breast cancer patients will be followed by a panel discussion.
  • Presentation on the Taskforce on Healthcare Careers for the Deaf and Hard of Hearing Community (July 24, 6:30 p.m., Rauenhorst Ballroom) — This presentation may be of particular interest to the local Deaf community, the medical community, as well as St. Kate's nursing students and faculty.

For detailed information about the symposium or to register, visit the CATIE Center.

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See also: Faculty, Healthcare, Leadership, Liberal Arts