Medical Interpreters Lower Health care Costs, Create Jobs
Making health care affordable and accessible to all is a top concern in America today. However, health care access isn’t just about whether you can pay your medical bills. For the 25 million Americans who have limited English proficiency, it is also about whether you can communicate with your doctor.
Misunderstandings due to language cause medical errors and misdiagnoses which cost hospitals millions of dollars in malpractice lawsuits and sometimes have tragic results for patients. The ethical and financial implications of language access in health care are especially strong in the Boston area, where ethnic minorities already represent more than 50% of the population, and which attracts 12 million tourists each year, including wealthy patients drawn to its world-class hospitals.
Medical Interpreters prevent dangerous medical errors and save hospitals and patients money. However, despite the skyrocketing need for interpreters—the Bureau of Labor Statistics predicts 42.2% employment growth for interpreters and translators by 2020—hospitals struggle to hire enough qualified interpreters to keep up with the demand. Meanwhile, many strong bilingual candidates are held back from this career because they cannot afford tuition for interpreting courses or they lack childcare and other supports.
Boston-based nonprofit, Found in Translation, responds to this dual need by providing free Medical Interpreting training and support services to low-income bilingual women in the Boston area. Selected from 195 applicants through language testing and interviews, the 30 women in the current class speak 16 languages, including difficult-to-find languages such as Tamil, Somali, Swahili, and Farsi. “Without the barrier of tuition cost we’ve opened this opportunity to hundreds of applicants who didn’t have this opportunity before” says founder, Maria Vertkin. “As a result we are the most selective & competitive interpreter program in US.”
Found in Translation is currently ranked in the world’s top 25 social enterprises for women & girls in Women Deliver, and is contending for the final of the Echoing Green Fellowship. Recently, it created three new interpreting jobs by launching a pilot job placement program in partnership with The Sharewood Project, a volunteer clinic run by Tufts medical students, providing professional interpreter services to patients badly in need of them.
It is hard to believe that they’ve done all this with no space of their own. Meeting in coffeeshops and holding classes in donated rooms, Maria oversees 50 volunteers and two staff on a budget that is a fraction of that of similar organizations. They have plans to expand. “Training is just a tiny piece,” says Maria Vertkin, “We spend the rest of the year helping people get jobs. We want to be a resource center for alumnae, and now that we have 50 of them it’s just not feasible to meet at coffeeshops. We need our own space that is accessible, with a computer room, and maybe even an interpreting call center.”
To achieve their goal they have launched a crowdfunding campaign on the popular website indiegogo.com to raise funds to rent their own office and classroom. You can see their campaign page and watch their video here: http://igg.me/at/foundintranslation.