Greater Tulsa Reporter
JOSE MINGUEZ: Making a difference in the lives of patients.
This past fall Jose Minguez, a patient relations advocate and interpreter for Cancer Treatment Centers of America (CTCA) in Tulsa, took a challenging examination. And he passed it. Few people in the state will ever take this exam, let alone receive a proficient score. What makes Minguez such a special employee at this Tulsa cancer center is the calling behind why he pursued the achievement in the first place.
If you have ever been in a situation with a complex and frightening health diagnosis, you know that understanding all the medical terms can be daunting and the processes unfamiliar, even with a great healthcare team and communicating in English. But what if English was not your first tongue? The dictionary of medical vernacular used in a hospital every day can be like a language unto itself. Add to that financial terms, insurance protocols, fatigue from illness and the stress of worry. There is a big chance you won’t hear or understand everything you need to make the best health choices for you and your family.
That challenge, the worry of the unknown coupled with the fear of not understanding, is why Minquez committed himself to studying for the National Board Certification in Spanish for Medical Interpreters (NBCMI). The distinction is a nationally recognized and validated certification for medical interpreters. It is an independent division of the International Medical Interpreters Association (IMIA).
“We never want language to be a barrier to making good, informed healthcare decisions,” says Susan Magill, guest services director at CTCA and Minguez’s supervisor. “So we support and encourage any employee who desires to achieve this certification.”
Minguez says his medical interpreting skills are used on almost a daily basis at the hospital. “This service is not used only when the patient is here but also to help facilitate communication between the patient and his or her appointment scheduler and care manager.”
A few of the special requirements Minguez accomplished for his certification included 40 hours of medical interpreting coursework, the study of anatomy, physiology and medical terminology, and interpreting specialty technique classes in consecutive, simultaneous or sight translation. The process was capped off with written and oral exams and took him about a year to complete.
“As a patient advocate, I make sure that all our patients experience our ‘Mother Standard of Care’ model, which is treating our patients like we would treat a loved one,” says Minguez. “When you mix this with being an interpreter, it usually means guiding them through the whole process. I become the contact person for any questions, concerns or any other communication between them and the hospital.”
For less common languages, the CTCA patient advocate team offers patients and their families another language solution system, called Video Remote Interpreting. Four computer-based devices throughout the medical center provide access to fluent speakers in multiple languages, 24 hours a day. “The interpreters are unique, because of their deep knowledge of our cancer center’s services, and their proficiency is communicating complex medical terms, ideas and treatments,” says Magill. “During the past year, our guests used interpreters for Russian, Chinese (Mandarin), Creole, Arabic and Portuguese through this program.”
Minguez noted that he likes to be good at any tasks he sets his mind to. But, becoming a medical interpreter was kind of a “revelation.” The 42-year-old foreign language teacher says he had not felt fulfilled working in his earlier career in the legal system.
“I wanted a real purpose and I found it here at CTCA. I came to interpret as an outside provider, and I knew immediately that this is what I wanted full-time,” says Minguez. “To be able to help people who are in a moment of extraordinary need has no comparison. I knew I was at home.”