Cathy Anderson:

Creating a Model for Training in Medical Interpreting and Cultural Competency

Jewish Vocational Service




 The rise of the Latino population and growing numbers of refugees in the Midwest has catalyzed health and human service providers to seek training opportunities in foreign language interpretation and cultural competency. A model developed by Jewish Vocational Service of Kansas City for training foreign language interpreters and their colleagues in the field, health and social service providers, may be useful for other communities straddling the urban/rural divide. The program provides both an intensive 40-hour training in medical/social services foreign language interpreting for beginning and intermediate interpreters and a 16-hour training in cultural competency for social workers and other staff who work directly with limited English proficient communities. As trainers in both programs, we have endeavored to develop approaches that reach rural and urban communities facing increasing needs for language interpretation and cultural competency.


The lower Midwest and other traditionally homogenous regions of the country are witness to a quiet transformation in education, health care, social services and commerce as more newcomers are permanently resettling in the region. Latino immigrants and refugees from Somalia, the Sudan, countries of the Middle East, Asia and Eastern Europe (often secondary migrants) are adding to the cultural mix while revitalizing formerly neglected cities, towns and regions that make up this mostly rural region of the country. Within the last ten years, the Midwest has emerged as a national magnet for Latinos. According to census figures from 1990 –2000, the Midwest had an 81% increase in its Hispanic population, the largest of the four census regions from 1990 – 2000. (Driever, S. 2003)


Qualified interpreters and health providers skilled in the area of cultural competency are essential in guaranteeing equal access to medical, social and legal services. As trainers who travel the roads to rural Kansas and Missouri towns and within the metropolis of Kansas City, we have discovered an enthusiastic interest in the new cultures that are adding to this changing landscape. We have also found that training becomes a fruitful meeting ground for health care providers, social workers, educators, as well as community interpreters to learn about new communities from each other. Our course in medical interpreting, Bridging the Gap, is designed to be taught in English, with supplemental materials provided in the participant’s target language. Authored and licensed by Cross Cultural Health Care Program of Seattle, Washington, the curriculum provides a solid background for the beginning and intermediate interpreter and is easily adaptable to courses where more than one language pair is represented. Our training in Cultural Competency, geared toward staff who work with limited-English proficient (LEP) individuals, covers how to work with an interpreter, LEP individuals’ rights to an interpreter, and how to assess federally-funded programs so that they are in compliance with the Title VI Civil Rights law barring discrimination on the basis of national origin and language. A major part of the training is devoted to cultural norms as well. Our main goal is to raise the standard of health care and services for limited English proficient newcomers.  Our presentation explores best practices in training in the areas of medical interpreting and cultural competency, with a view to recent progress in professionalizing the field of foreign language interpreting in health care.



Driever, Steven L. (2003) Demographic and Census Trends of Latinos in the Kansas City Area. University of Missouri Cambio de Colores Conference: Kansas City, MO.


Contact Information:


Cathy Anderson

Jewish Vocational Service

Kansas City, MO  64108

816-471-2808, Ex. 124