"It's scary enough going to the doctor or a hospital when you're sick," said Sandra Ruiz, who graduated from MATC's medical interpreter technical diploma program in May 2014. For people facing medical challenges and not able to communicate in their native language, that fear and confusion is magnified.
Medical interpreters try to ease those situations, Ruiz said. Some work directly for hospitals, others for agencies that provide interpreters for health care environments. They ensure clear communication between patients, their families and medical practitioners.
"We try to provide a level of ‘transparency' in those situations," she said. "If we're doing a good job, it's as if we are not even there. We help patients and doctors understand each other. We make sure that patients understand questions and directions and that health care workers really hear and understand what the patients are saying."
Saw Need for Medical Interpreters First Hand
Ruiz saw the importance of this first hand when her father began dealing with diabetes. He did not speak English well and got frustrated just trying to make appointments to see his doctor. Her mother stepped in to help him make arrangements and to understand his treatment.
Ruiz, 24, was born in Peru. She and her parents immigrated to the U.S. 22 years ago. She learned English as a child, but it wasn't as easy for her parents. Her mother speaks English very well now, but her father still struggles with the language. Both parents held prestigious jobs working for the Peruvian government, but when they came to the U.S., language barriers stood in the way.
Sandra's mother, Gladys Ruiz, took a job at a factory where she ended up translating for Hispanic workers and English-speaking managers in addition to her other duties. She took classes at MATC in medical interpreting years ago when it was only offered as a certificate program. Gladys now works as a medical interpreter, and still occasionally takes medical interpreter classes at MATC to enhance her skills.
Ruiz said the evening classes in the medical interpreter technical diploma program were convenient because she worked a full-time day job.
Sandra's mother, Gladys Ruiz, started MATC medical interpreter courses when the program was offered as a certificate and still occasionally takes classes in the diploma program. She is shown here with Sandra's children, Tiana (in yellow dress) and Isabella.
Following in Mother's Footsteps
Gladys urged her daughter to enroll in the MATC medical interpreter technical diploma program. As a single mother who was juggling a full-time customer service job with Manpower, Inc., and raising two toddlers, Sandra was skeptical about being able to add school to her already busy schedule. She was pleased to learn that she could take the medical interpreter technical diploma program four evenings a week after work. The scheduling allowed her some time each day to spend with her daughters, now 2 and 3, between work and class time.
"It's been hard to get it all done, but the schedule has allowed me a perfect balance to be with my daughters and improve my career," she said. Ruiz had wanted to become a nurse at one point. She said that medical interpreting gave her a chance to stay in the medical field, but also offered her a career that would eventually give her more control over her work schedule.
"We try to provide a level of ‘transparency' in those situations. If we're doing a good job, it's as if we are not even there. We help patients and doctors understand each other. We make sure that patients understand questions and directions and that health care workers really hear and understand what the patients are saying."
Setting Example for Daughters
Finding a stable and fulfilling career was very important to Ruiz. She had been trapped in a domestic violence situation with the father of her daughters. When she was able to break away, she was strongly motivated to provide a positive role model for her children. "I walked away from the abusive situation so that my daughters could have a healthy life," she said. "I didn't want them to think what was going on was normal. I have to live my life so my daughters see me as strong, caring and successful."
The medical interpreter technical diploma program has helped Ruiz grow as a person, she said. "Being in the program helped me find myself again. It helped me regain my self-confidence. I was able to ‘make myself over.' It changed the way I look at things. I thought I was open-minded before I entered the program, but our instructor, Rodney Ramos., Sr., always challenged our thinking. For instance, he made us think about how we reacted to someone on the street who has a strong accent. Before, I might have wondered why that person was in this country and hadn't learned English yet. Now I don't look at things the same way."
Ruiz speaks highly of Ramos, who joined the MATC faculty and developed the full technical diploma program nine years ago. "He is so passionate about what he does that it transfers to us. His program really captivates you. It is so engrossing that sometimes we forget everything else because we're enjoying learning so much."
Ruiz already has landed a job as an interpreter with Addeco, a professional services company that supplies medical interpreters for Children's Hospital of Wisconsin.
For more information on MATC's medical interpreter technical diploma, see: http://www.matc.edu/health_sciences/diplomas/medical-interpreter.cfm
Rodney Ramos, Sr., developed MATC's medical interpreter technical diploma program nine years ago.
Ruiz found MATC's medical interpreter technical diploma program to be engrossing and fulfilling.