Thursday, January 12, 2017

Learning the Language of Success

Photo of medical professional smiling while holding documents

Rio Salado College student Miriam Ponsock has turned her language skills and compassion into a career.

Ponsock is a wife and mother of two who speaks Spanish and has a passion for helping people. When she was recently contemplating her career options, these two skills merged into one clear direction. “I care about people, and figured if I can get training in something I enjoy, and do it as a career, that is a good thing,” said Ponsock.

She promptly enrolled in Rio Salado College’s Spanish for Medical Interpretation classes.

The two-class sequence was created to give students the opportunity to gain valuable career skills while helping fill voids in the local healthcare community.

“Communication is key, especially in emergency room situations,” said Angela Felix, Rio Salado College’s faculty chair for languages. “There is an increase in the number of people needing quality medical care. Receiving the correct information in a language they understand is critical.”

Photo of person in blue srubs speaking with smiling elderly person with arm brace. Background: doctor in an office and doctor walking

Rio Salado partnered with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital to develop the course content, which was accredited by the Certification Commission for Healthcare Interpreters in 2014.

“This training is perfect for students who are bilingual but don’t know what career path to follow,” Felix said. “The most important thing to know is that students don’t have to have a medical background to take these classes. We will teach them the terminology and how to manage interpretive encounters.”
Offering the classes online allows students to enjoy the convenience of learning on their schedule.

“I like the online experience,” said Ponsock. “My class is user-friendly and flexible. I can log in at any time and contact my instructor, check my grades and complete my assignments.”

However, it has not all been smooth sailing for Ponsock. Her husband is fighting a life-threatening disease and may require an organ transplant.

“I was trying to get a job, going to school, visiting the hospital for my husband’s health emergencies and attending the needs of my children,” Ponsock said. “There were moments when I felt burdened and had difficulty focusing.”

“But there were also moments of relief where I would give it my all,” Ponsock said. “I believe that with divine grace I was able to push through. I’m grateful that Rio Salado gave me the flexibility to study, work and care for my family.”

Ponsock’s perseverance paid off. After completing the first Spanish for Medical Interpretation class, she got a job with a company that specializes in interpreting and translation services.

“The work I did for my class and my teacher’s constructive feedback were a huge stepping stone for me to obtain this job,” Ponsock said. “The class has helped me grow and has boosted my confidence to a level that I had never imagined.”

Ponsock’s instructor was Dr. Elida Testai, a former science journalist in Argentina who believes that interpretation goes far beyond word choice.
Nurse holding pill bottle while elderly patient looks at the bottle

“Anybody can check words in a dictionary,” Testai said. “Interpreters transmit a message, a concept or an idea while respecting the tone and intention of the speaker in context. It’s about conveying a deep level of meaning.”

For more information about Rio Salado’s Spanish for Medical Interpretation classes visit Enroll now -- classes start Mondays!

Contributed by Mira Radovich, Communications Coordinator.