Resource Center Poster Session I

Determining Competency; Hiring Quality interpreters
Tuesday, March 12, 2013: 12:00 PM - 07:30 PM, OAK, East Hall
Interpreter Services at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS) had, until recently, inconsistent methods of hiring ad hoc interpreters. Interpreter competency varied greatly from language to language, reducing consistency in patient care. To improve the quality of interpretation services across all languages, we embarked on a continuous quality improvement project that utilized lean management principles and the PDCA cycle.

The hiring process now consists of:

-          An application, OIG check and resume review

-          A phone interview to test background and medical vocabulary in both English and the second language

-          An in-person interview that includes a short translation in both languages, sight translation and a mock interpretation session

-          HIPAA training, confidentiality agreements

-          Shadowing and rating at actual appointments

The hiring process is now the same for all languages, with testing metrics set at the same levels for each language. Even though some interpreters had medical training, they were disqualified due to extraneous factors that are targeted and addressed by our hiring processes. For interpreters who demonstrated potential but required some more experience, we implemented an internship process to help those applicants polish their skills to meet UMHS standards and become full-fledged interpreters.

In developing consistent hiring processes, challenges faced included set time frames for each hiring step that were being missed by the hiring staff, leaving potentially qualified applicants to languish in the hiring process for weeks longer than necessary. We addressed this challenge by reemphasizing the importance of hiring timelines to higing staff while also beginning development of a collaborative tracking system in which each applicant is tracked throughout the hiring process, increasing accountability and decreasing hiring times. Other challenges included time required to translate assessment test results, inconsistency in grading systems, and the handling of applicants that are already nationally certified interpreters. To lower hiring process times, we began developing an automated system to administer testing for applicants and automatically record results, freeing up staff to spend more time providing interpreter services in the health system. Each challenge is being addressed as an individual improvement project under our continuous lean improvement techniques.

  • Michelle - Poster Presentation.pdf (10.3 MB)
  • Presentation Information:

    Program: Poster Presentations (Main Conference)
    Primary Category: Language Access
    Subtopics: Interpreter training, assessment and certification

    Region Addressed by Presentation: US - Midwest
    Organization: Health Care System

    Michelle Harris , Interpreter Services, University of Michigan Health System, Ann Arbor, MI
      University of Michigan Health System
      Interpreter Services
      2025 Plymouth Road, Suite A4
      Ann Arbor MI, USA 48105

      Phone: 734-998-2165
      Fax: 734-998-2195
      Email Address:

      Biographical Sketch:
      Michelle Harris is the Director of Interpreter Services at the University of Michigan Health System (UMHS). Since 1998 when she transitioned into her role as Director, Michelle has grown the department from around 40 volunteer interpreters to 130 trained staff interpreters and translators. Michelle has developed the Interpreter Services department that now provides Interpreting, Translating and Educational training to current and aspiring medical interpreters. She also strongly supports training for Interpreters and Translators as well as UMHS Staff who work with them. She feels this is the key to providing quality services to patients. Michelle has a strong interest in quality improvement and lean principals, as well as finding innovative ways to reduce the cost of providing interpreter services while maintaining a high standard of quality. Michelle has a MBA from Eastern Michigan University and a BA in English and Business Administration from Adrian College. In 2000, under Michelle’s leadership, Interpreter Services won Program of the Year from the University of Michigan Health System.