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Press Releases

Bilingual New Yorkers Graduate from First HHC – CUNY Class for Healthcare Interpreters

Dec 09, 2009

New York, NY

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) and the City University of New York (CUNY) today announced the first graduating class for the CUNY Healthcare Interpreter Program that trains bilingual and multilingual students to serve as qualified hospital interpreters to help limited English speakers navigate the complex healthcare system.
The class of 20 New Yorkers who speak Spanish and Polish received healthcare interpreter certificates at a graduation ceremony today at HHC’s Harlem Hospital Center. In the future, classes will be held in other languages, based on need. It is anticipated that 100 students will be trained as interpreters each year.
“Language and cultural barriers in health care settings can negatively affect access to quality care for patients with limited English language skills. Having professionally trained HHC medical interpreters improves patient care, safety and access to care.#8221; said Ramanathan Raju, HHC Executive Vice President and Chief Medical Officer.
There are 140 languages spoken in New York City and nearly 50% of the city’s 8.2 million residents speak a language other than English. The new certificate program was developed by the HHC Center for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) and other members of the CUNY Advisory Board which has representatives from all sectors of the New York City interpretation community. They joined together to meet the increasing need for highly qualified on-site interpreting services at HHC facilities and other hospitals. This collaboration sets a new standard for how interpreters are trained to manage complex communications in healthcare settings.
“There is no shortage of situations, anecdotal or reported in the media, recounting the danger of using untrained interpreters. Interpreting is complex. It’s a voice for patient and provider so the patient can receive the best care possible and it helps eliminate the possibility of compromising patients’ safety,” said Wilma Alvarado-Little, Director of Community Engagement/Outreach, Center for Elimination of Minority Health Disparities, SUNY Albany and the Key Note speaker.
The students are a mix of current HHC employees and CUNY students who successfully completed a curriculum program that focuses on interpreting clinical information, recognizing and dealing with ethical issues and cultural conflicts, and clinicians’ roles and expectations. Students also learn medical vocabulary and use role-playing exercises to master the consecutive interpreting skills that emphasize accuracy, which is essential for patient safety.
“Because of my background in public policy and advocacy, I understand the importance of assuring that populations in need have access to good healthcare services. A necessary element in providing quality services to these populations is the availability of properly trained Healthcare Interpreters. This is why I am thrilled that Hostos has embarked on this joint venture with HHC and our other CUNY partners and in knowing that our training curriculum will produce interpreters of the highest quality,” said Dr. Félix V. Matos-Rodríguez, President of Hostos Community College.
“I know how important it is to have a trained healthcare interpreter available because I’ve been there. When I came here 19 years ago I spoke no English. The first time my daughter got sick I tried to communicate over the phone with the doctor using a Spanish-English dictionary and paper and pen,” said Susana Delamonica, a Childlife Specialist at Bellevue Hospital and graduate of the program.
The program was offered to HHC bilingual staff and CUNY students pre-selected and screened for language proficiency. HHC subsidized the tuition for their employees. The Healthcare Interpreter Program provided an opportunity to acquire the interpreting skills needed to meet the criteria established by the Standards of Practice of the International Medical Interpreters Association and the Code of Ethics of the National Council on Interpreting in Healthcare.
This program is the most recent addition to HHC’s extensive language access services including:

  • Telephonic Interpreter Services: Enables all HHC facilities to have immediate access to professional interpretation services in 150 languages, 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
  • Print and electronic publications: HHC policies, health education materials, discharge instructions and many other written communications are available in the 12 “HHC languages” spoken by the majority of patients. The languages include Spanish, French, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Russian and Urdu.
  • Multilingual Signage: HHC facilities display signage appropriate to their patient population.
  • TEMIS System: This system, Team/Technology Enhanced Medical Interpreting System (TEMIS), is in operation at Bellevue and Gouverneur Hospitals and provides simultaneous interpretation using wireless technology.

For more information on the CUNY Healthcare Interpreters Program go to www.cuny.edu/healthcareinterpreter.

Contact: Ian Michaels (HHC) (212) 788-3339

About CUNY

The City University of New York is the nation’s largest urban public university, comprised of 23 institutions: 11 senior colleges, six community colleges, the William E. Macaulay Honors College at CUNY, the Graduate School and University Center, the City University School of Law at Queens College, the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism, the CUNY School of Professional Studies, and the CUNY School of Public Health. Serving more than 243,000 degree-credit students and 273,000 continuing and professional education students, the University confers 35,000 degrees each year – more than 1.1 million associate, baccalaureate, master’s and doctoral degrees since 1967. CUNY plays a crucial role in the life and economy of the city and state. As of 2007, 54 percent of undergraduates and 46 percent of all college students in New York City were attending CUNY. College Now, CUNY’s academic enrichment program for 46,000 high school students, is offered at CUNY campuses and at more than 343 high schools. Online baccalaureate degrees are offered by the School of Professional Studies.

About HHC

The New York City Health and Hospitals Corporation (HHC) is a $6.7 billion integrated healthcare delivery system with its own 420,000 member health plan, MetroPlusHealth, and is the largest municipal healthcare organization in the country. HHC serves 1.4 million New Yorkers every year and more than 475,000 are uninsured. HHC provides medical, mental health and substance abuse services through its 11 acute care hospitals, five skilled nursing facilities, six large diagnostic and treatment centers and more than 70 community based clinics. HHC Health and Home Care also provides in-home services for New Yorkers. HHC was the 2008 recipient of the National Quality Forum and The Joint Commission’s John M. Eisenberg Award for Innovation in Patient Safety and Quality. For more information, visit www.nychhc.org/hhc or find us on facebook.com/NYCHealthSystem or twitter.com/NYCHealthSystem.