Featured interpreter: Karla R. (Shetter) Grathler, CMI – Spanish, Farmworker Health Program Coordinator at Shawnee Health Service

8-hour long interpreting for labor had me as exhausted as future mom to be

Q: How long have you been an interpreter and why/how did you get started in the field?

A: I have been an interpreter in the U.S since 2007. I started in the field when a local language services agency was hiring medical interpreters.

Q: What was your first interpreting job?

A: My first interpreting job was our local hospital in Carbondale, IL

Q: What would you like changed or improved in the industry?

A: Better hourly rates for full-time medical interpreters. It seems like the high pay rates are mostly for freelance interpreters in big cities. To require National Certification to perform as Medical Interpreters. I see many bilingual individual who perform either as freelancer or as part of the interpreters’ staff who have not even taken the minimum 40-hr training. To me, this poses a legal danger for organizations and may cause more harm than benefits to the patients due to the risk of miscommunication leading to misdiagnosis and wrong medical treatment.

Q: What was the funniest/most interesting experience on the job?

A: Funniest: At the end of a very long and stressful day, I was interpreting for a medical visit and instead of interpreting into the opposite language, I was repeating what the patient said in Spanish and what the doctor said in English. Both of them looked at me puzzled and then we all started to laugh. I deeply apologized and brought my brain back to the right path..lol!!

Interpreting for a delivery: Interpreting for a pregnant patient who was in labor during my whole shift. I ended up as exhausted as the brave mom-to-be. It was exhausting to interpret statements conveying feelings of pain and discomfort for 8 hours straight.

Q: What was the saddest experience on the job?

A: To interpret for when a doctor had to give tragic news to a mom. Her baby did not make after a horrible car accident.

Q: How do you prepare for assignments?

A: I try to have a good night sleep as much as I can. I keep myself hydrated during the day. Learn about the reason for the medical visit and review possible terminology.

Q: Which social media do you use, if any? If you do, what are your most favorite pages/accounts/groups to read?

A: I use LinkedIn. I think it is good way to network with other professionals. I am a member of the IMIA as well. I love the articles posted on the IEO site. I share most of the articles with my interpreter staff at our monthly meetings.

Q: What are your favorite movies/literature in your native language? Can you recommend something to our readers?

A: I am reading “El Filtro Burbuja: Cómo la Red decide lo que leemos y lo que pensamos”. Escrito por Eli Pariser. Very interesting narration and viewpoint of how media feeds the people exactly what they (the people) want to hear. The way we are exposed to information, news etc. is mostly according to our likes and preferences. We tend to limit ourselves nowadays and we are not opened to go beyond our likes and preferences.

Q: What advice would you give to an up and coming interpreter?

A: I would advise anyone who wants to become an interpreter to expose him/herself to different cultures related to the language pair he/she will be interpreting in. It is important to be fluent in the used languages, but also to be familiar and understand the cultural differences. Another important advice would be to build a terminology list of colloquial terms in both languages, this way when speakers utilize those kind of terms, the interpreter will be ready to convey accurate interpretation and perform his/her conduit role fully.

Q: Which stereotype about your native culture would you like to eliminate? What are your favorite things about your native culture or language?

A: I am originally from Lima, Peru. Something I have been asked before is if Peruvians have seen tall buildings, if we use technology, do we have cars, other than llamas, LOL!! I explain that Peru as many other countries has both rural and urban areas. I tell them llamas are mostly in the highland and they are used as pack animals and for their wool.

My favorite thing is the beauty of our geography in the three main regions. The coastal region bounded by the Pacific Ocean, the highlands located in the Andean heights and the Amazon Jungle. And I love my Spanish language. It sounds so beautiful to me. If you asks people from other South American countries, they would say that Peruvians speak like if they are singing.

Q: Who is your role model and why?

A: My role model is my mom for sure. A woman who did not have the opportunity to even finish middle school but when she became a mom she sacrificed everything she had to create opportunities for her daughters. All of us have college degrees and each of us are contributing to our communities in different ways. I feel that is the legacy my mom wanted to leave for us.

Q: What do you do to develop your professional skills? Webinars, conferences? If the latter, which conferences do you prefer and why?

A: I am constantly reviewing my medical terminology. I make sure I write down and find the correct equivalent in the target language to be prepared for the next time I come across the terminology. I attend as many webinars as I can. I maintain contact with other interpreters through IMIA and Proz.com

Q: Is there anything you feel lacking in educational options out there? If you were to choose the topic for a new webinar or course, what would it be?

A: More medical interpreting education on mental health. Interpreting for counseling scenarios to me is a different ball game. The interpreter is constantly interpreting messages that convey feelings and emotions for almost an hour non-stop. I wish there were more resources to help prepare for interpreting situations like those.

Q: How did you prepare for the certification exam? What was the most difficult? Can you share resources that helped you?

A: I studied as much medical terminology as I could. I had someone reading 3 to 4 sentence statements out loud for me and then I would interpret.

I also recorded statements in both English and Spanish, then I played those so I could interpret.

Resources I used were: Medline Plus, Proz.com, IMIA, a voice recorder.

Q: What is the most important to be successful as an interpreter, in your opinion?

A: The most important is to love what you do. To have a heart for service. We have such a big responsibility to make sure what the two parties that speak different languages are communicating with accuracy and completeness, so the outcome they are looking for is positive and effective.

 

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