• Liz Essary

Lab7 Healthcare Interpreting Intensive Returns for Summer 2021!


We were thrilled to partner again this summer with the Marian University College of Osteopathic Medicine for our healthcare interpreting intensive. Our broad goals were clear: First, teach medical students best practices for working with interpreters online and then give them a chance to practice with professional interpreters. And second, give interpreters a chance to practice interpreting unscripted encounters online. This is definitely not a course where you can show up and tune out--It requires everyone's full attention and participation! Read on to learn what makes the Lab7 intensive so special.


The players: This year, we worked with 144 medical students and 20 interpreters. Among the interpreters were graduate students of interpreting, interpreter trainers, staff hospital interpreters, and conference interpreters taking their first steps into the healthcare world. They represented French, Spanish, American Sign Language, Mandarin, and Burmese. Lab7 is not a training, but a practice intensive, so all of the interpreters have at least a foundational knowledge of healthcare interpreting protocols. A small but might team of two (Liz Essary and Laura Holcomb of Seven Sisters) organized and facilitated the interpreted sessions. Behind the scenes, we had help from medical educators to put together the cases to be interpreted.


The characters: Medical students played the part of themselves, interviewing patients through an interpreter. The interpreters worked in teams of two, and took turns playing the patient. But these weren't just any patients. In Lab7, we don't use scripts, so the interpreters used a structured guide ahead of time to create a patient persona that they could play convincingly. We gave the interpreters the cases ahead of time, along with a prep worksheet so they could have an organized, clear way to prepare for either the patient or interpreter role. Even in this pre-work preparation phase, the interpreters began to learn a lot vocabulary and background knowledge.


The cases: In pairs, interpreters met with medical students online and run the scenarios based on cases they've seen ahead of time. Both the "patients" and medical students are instructed to incorporate specific difficulties for the interpreters. Often times, if the patient does something to throw the interpreter for a loop, it knocks the provider off balance, too. Each group of medical students and interpreters has a chance to debrief and discuss their difficulties at the end of the case.


Interpreters as teachers: Interpreters are encouraged to share with the medical students in the debrief any information about working with interpreters that might help the students as they move forward in their clinical experience. And because Lab7 is built on a peer-led model, the interpreters are also meant to teach other. After each interpreted session, they engage in peer support, using an interpreter-driven, goal-based model they learn to use during the pre-work.

Last year, we ran this same intensive online (we used to call it SimLab), because of the pandemic, but we decided to keep the online model moving forward, since it allows us to include interpreters who otherwise wouldn't be able to travel onsite, and it also gives us all an opportunity to sharpen our online skills.


With medical students playing themselves, and in the absence of scripts but with careful preparation, this Lab7 healthcare interpreting intensive provides a unique experience for interpreters to play multiple roles: interpreter, patient, and teacher.


If you're an interpreter and you're interested in attending a future Lab7 interpreting intensive, head over to our website where you can put your name on our mailing list and be the first time to know when a new course opens! If you're an educator who would like to learn more about hosting an interpreting intensive for your students, drop us a line. We can't wait to see you at a future even online!

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