Initial and Ongoing Evaluation of Interpreters

Intervention Title:
Initial and Ongoing Evaluation of Interpreters – UMass Memorial Health Care (UMMHC); Worcester, Mass.

Establish a clear and consistent process for assessing interpreters who provide language services.

Staff developed a process for evaluating interpreters consistently across onsite employees, independent contractors and union members. Included in the process are timely competency evaluations, interpreter mentors and continuing education requirements.

The more than 70 interpreters working at UMMHC are now in compliance with staffing evaluation standards that all other hospital employees must meet. This group includes onsite interpreters, union members and independent contractors. The evaluations have also validated the quality of interpreters across all languages. These new policies and procedures brought the Department's staff into 100 percent compliance with the Joint Commission evaluation standards.

UMass Memorial Health Care
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655

From the leadership:
“To ensure that all patients are receiving quality interpreter services you must ensure that you have the right people providing those services. It is impossible to guarantee a high level of interpretation unless all interpreters are evaluated consistently and in their own languages.“

Connie Camelo
Director of Interpreter Services

UMass Memorial Health Care is a 1,093-bed hospital and health system that is a clinical partner of the University of Massachusetts Medical School.

Clinical areas affected:

  • Hospital-wide

Staff involved:

  • Interpreter Services Department staff
  • All language services providers

Evaluation tools were in place; therefore it took only one month to develop the procedures and policies.

Connie Camelo
Director of Interpreter Services
UMass Memorial Health Care
55 Lake Avenue North
Worcester, MA 01655
P: (508) 856-3780

Innovation implementation:
With a rapidly changing population in the community, the importance of the Interpreter Services Department within UMMHC has grown in recent years. As the demands for language services grew it became increasingly important to put into place clear and consistent policies and procedures to evaluate all language services providers. The Department already had many evaluation tools in place to build upon, including Department competency evaluations, terminology evaluations and continuing education programs. The tools were not, however, consistently used across all interpreters—many of whom are independent contractors or union members.

The program now places strong emphasis on integrating evaluation into the hiring and ongoing job performance reviews of all interpreters. All language services providers are now required to complete a three month evaluation after they have been hired and then must complete a yearly evaluation. In addition, they must complete a Department competency evaluation and an evaluation of terminology every two years.

UMMHC has also put into place a continuing education requirement that all interpreters must complete a minimum of five trainings per year. The Department hosts continuing education trainings once a month and these trainings have been opened up to other local medical centers.

The Department also began a mentoring program and now all interpreters are assigned a mentor. The mentors are chosen based on their evaluations and experience. They are trained and compensated for their increased workload.

Advice and lessons learned:

  1. You've got to speak the language. It is critical for interpreters to be evaluated in the languages they interpret. For languages of limited diffusion it is possible to use vendors to assist with the evaluations.
  2. Capitalize on experience. Creating a mentor training process, in which senior interpreters act as mentors for new interpreters, helps improve performance.
  3. Be clear and consistent. Implementation of the new procedures and policies can be eased by providing them to all staff in writing. The new procedures should be consistent with requirements for all other hospital employees, which will help staff understand the need for them.

Cost/benefit estimate:
Since most of the evaluation tools were already in place, there were only minimal costs to implement the new program, including increased compensation for mentors and the use of outside vendors for some evaluations.