How Certified Healthcare Interpreter Rebecca Reyes plans to give families peace of mind
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Imagine your child has suffered a traumatic injury, sudden illness or has been diagnosed with a complex medical condition. Families in this position are thrust into a strange and stressful new world full of new terminology and procedures. For families who do not speak English, the uncertainty and struggle to understand their child’s treatment can be even greater. Rebecca Reyes hopes to change that for Bethany Children’s Health Center’s Spanish-speaking families.
Growing up in Altus, Oklahoma, Rebecca spent most of her life interpreting for her Spanish-speaking parents. “Imagine a six- or seven-year-old talking to you about a 401k or needing a cashier’s check,” she says. “For nearly 20 years, I have accompanied my mom to her doctor’s appointments, so she knows what’s going on with her health.”
When Rebecca began working as a Patient Activity Aide at Bethany Children’s, she began to understand how much interpreting is needed and valued by Spanish-speaking families and was moved to pursue becoming a Certified Healthcare Interpreter ™.
“We encounter families that are going through one of the most challenging chapters in their lives,” Rebecca explains. “I put myself in my mother’s shoes when she would take me to the doctor. Even as a young child, I would pick bits and pieces of information to interpret for my mom. So, she would receive this broken information, but she didn’t actually understand what was going on. She would go above and beyond to care for me with what she knew, understood and could control. I wish there had been someone there to help her.”
The process of becoming certified as an interpreter was not easy. First, Rebecca had to prove her proficiency in English and in Spanish. Then she began an intense training program. “The program was very heavy in medical terminology, which felt like learning a completely different language in itself,” she says. “It also involved learning the role of an interpreter and how to help bridge the gap between provider and Spanish speaker.”
After passing the training exam, the next step was taking two certification exams through the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters. The first exam was a multiple choice, in English and Spanish. The second exam required Rebecca to listen to a prerecorded encounter between a provider and a patient and record her interpretation. “It was definitely the most challenging exam I have ever taken,” she declares.
Now that she is certified, Rebecca hopes to give Spanish-speaking families the peace of mind her mother never had. Her dream is to expand interpreting services into an entire department, saying, “I hope to make families of any language or culture feel comfortable here with us, because we can connect with them in their language.”
Andrea Vadnais, Director of Social Services at Bethany Children’s, says, “I am so excited that Bethany Children’s now has a full-time certified medical interpreter to help improve the services for our Spanish speaking families. We have relied on outsourced interpreting and document translation services, which were often costly and not very time efficient. Having Rebecca as part of Care Coordination demonstrates the excellence and quality of service that we strive to provide to every family.”
Rebecca is excited to jump into her new full-time role, adding “Whether it be using technology to help families connect with interpreters via video calls or making sure we have materials available in other languages, I want us all to feel confident in our interactions with all of our families and patients. That will be a truly amazing accomplishment!”
Interpreting appointments and requests for Rebecca’s services can be made on BuzzCom on the Rehab/Education Hub.
Something people might not know: “I’ve had the opportunity to participate in two pageants.”
Very first job: Bologna packer at BAR-S Foods. “Imagine standing in a fridge for eight hours a day during the summer. I had tons of fun, though.”
Favorite ways to spend free time: “Visiting new places to eat with my bestie, watching movies, or anything outdoors.”
Favorite inspirational saying: “Practice, practice, practice. From every music teacher I ever encountered, but I have learned that this can apply to anything and everything under the sun.”
Favorite food: Tacos
Dream weekend: Glamping in the Alaskan wilderness.
From the bucket list: Visit Greece