This week’s Featured Linguist is Prado Antolino, the Language Services Manager at Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa, Florida. With a rich academic background including a Master’s degree in Translation and Applied Linguistics, Prado brings a wealth of experience and insight to her role. As a double-certified professional in translation and medical interpreting, she has been a key figure in shaping language access policies and strategies within the Cancer Center. Read on to learn more about Prado’s expertise, her journey, insights, and the dynamic challenges she addresses in the field of medical interpretation and translation.
Q: Your journey from the Universidad Complutense de Madrid to being the Language Services Manager at Moffitt Cancer Center is fascinating. How has your background in English Philology and Translation shaped your approach to managing language services in a healthcare setting?
A: I suppose it has driven me to push myself and others to achieve high quality and excellence as linguists. Philologists, by definition, have a deep love for the language and for in-depth knowledge. Perhaps sharing my love of languages and of learning with the colleagues I work with and with our internal customers is how I honor my inner philologist. When working in healthcare, one spends a lot of time educating others (providers, executives, colleagues, etc.) on myriad topics, including the importance of engaging professionally trained interpreters and translators, dissuading them from engaging family members, as it is a terrible practice and against the law, and by emphasizing that the expertise we bring into the medical team as linguists is actually supplemental to the medical expertise the treatment team provides. This education, at face value, can be dry, but when there is a very deep underlying passion for what you do, it is easier to communicate it, and hopefully, it is well received and more easily integrated.
Q: You are certified with ATA and NBCMI. Could you share a memorable experience where your certifications played a pivotal role?
A: Absolutely. Back in 2003 when I first started working as a translator in the hospital, I was already certified. At that time, there was not a national medical interpreting certification. However, I had training, and the combination of translation certification and medical interpreter training allowed me to become the dedicated language resource for our cancer patients participating in clinical trials. It would go like this: I would translate the informed consent form into Spanish, which would then be IRB-approved, and once the patient was on trial, I would be the interpreter during the study visits, study procedures, discussions with the clinical trials coordinators, the research team, etc. It was a role that I absolutely loved. Being able to translate the consent, research the terminology at length, and having time to understand the concepts resulted in conducting interpreting sessions very efficiently and smoothly, because I had already incorporated all that knowledge. Although medical interpreting certification had not come along yet, I do believe that the double training I had was a huge advantage at the time. And then, when national medical interpretation certification came along, the double certification has continued to serve me very well in my role. For example, I believe it has provided a level of instant credibility in my skillset and expertise that I might have not have had without it.
Q: Any tips on how best to prepare to get certified?
A: I imagine that different things work for different people. For translation, I would say to give yourself enough time to gain practical, real world translation experience. During that time, ask questions to more experienced colleagues, read parallel texts in the source and target languages, invest in a few reputable glossaries and style guides; study, be curious, inquire. There are just so many wonderful resources out there. And find yourself a mentor as well. I had the immense luck to have colleagues who were so generous to me with their knowledge, expertise, and time. I learned an incredible amount from them, and they also gave me the security to sit the exam. By the time I did, I felt I was ready.
For interpreting, it will depend on your personal situation. If you are already a practicing interpreter, then, use your regular practice to gather terminology, to self-monitor what went well or what didn’t within a session (self-reflection and self-evaluation have been helpful to me) and then implement your own feedback. To become more comfortable with the different modes of interpreting, practice with consecutive interpreting online resources, practice sight-translation by reading whatever falls in your hands; listen to the radio and whisper in English what they are saying, then start to interpret little by little into the target language. Studying the standards of practice from CHIA, NCIHC, IMIA, and RID backwards and forwards was helpful. And of course, consulting with more experienced interpreters in those areas where you feel you need more help is also a good practice (for example, attending webinars, online education, monitoring list servs, posing questions on list servs, etc.). Most colleagues are incredibly generous with sharing their knowledge, and this is a profession in which we never ever stop learning (that is one of the beautiful things about it), so being curious and looking for answers, and integrating them into your practice will go a long way to successfully become certified, and afterwards to continue improving as an interpreter.
Q: At Moffitt Cancer Center, you play a vital role in ensuring equitable language access. What innovative strategies have you implemented to promote effective collaboration between healthcare professionals and interpreters?
A: I feel as though my strategy has been less innovative and more one of sheer persistence. It has been a blend of consistently providing one-on-one education (by one-on-one I mean provider education as you work with them, and then asking them to tell a friend), sitting in institutional committees and meetings, doing in-services with different target departments, promoting our services and value through the different hospital internal communication channels, and writing articles in internal newsletters, among other measures. However, I feel that, ultimately, what has helped the most for equitable language access has been the team of interpreters proving to the clinicians how valuable we truly are to the patient’s experience and outcomes. When an interpreter delivers complex clinical information skillfully, flawlessly, and competently, the air in the room changes. Slowly but surely, providers rely more on more on your expertise, and before you know it, the language services department has become part of the fabric of the organization, and language access starts to be considered from the get-go rather than as an afterthought.
Prado is part of the panel on Working Conditions and Productivity at LEO’s 8th Virtual Conference. Join us on November 30-December 1 to learn more from Prado and other outstanding experts in the field!