Our interpreters are among the most qualified in the healthcare market, setting the highest standard for credentials, experience and training. This month we celebrate the skill and dedication of our diverse interpreter team and their commitment to ensuring all patients have access to safe, high quality care.
Jinhi’s love of languages and interpreting began when she was very young. She was born in South Korea, but when she was just seven years old, her family immigrated to Argentina where she was first exposed to Spanish language and culture.
“As a child, I learned to pick up the Spanish language very quickly, out of necessity,” said Jinhi. “I immediately began school in Argentina, which was taught only in Spanish, and I was forced to assimilate and adapt right away.”
However, her parents had more difficulty adjusting, and Jinhi and her sister regularly served as their interpreters and translators.
“Although I interpreted for my parents out of necessity, I began to fall in love with languages and just about anything related to communication at a very young age,” she said. “I saw the value of how knowing several languages to communicate can be incredibly powerful.”
When Jinhi was 18, she moved to the United States to study biology in Michigan, with the intent to return to Paraguay and help her father in the poultry business. Jinhi had a lifelong aspiration to pursue community development projects in Paraguay. Knowing several languages and a background in biology put her on a path to achieving this goal.
“I grew up in a rural area surrounded by people and families with many basic needs,” she said. “Biology was for me a means to a greater end, empowering rural communities.”
Her plan was to study in the United States and take her knowledge back to Latin America. Her return was delayed when she met her husband, John, in college. The two ended up getting married, and had four children. In 1991 they moved their family to Paraguay where they lived for 12 years pursuing community development projects.
When her family returned to the United States, Jinhi and John were asked to become teachers at an international boarding institution in Walker, Iowa that receives students from the U.S, South Korea, Africa and a few Latin American countries. Living together with students and staff on the same campus provided a different and unique sense of community where Jinhi’s foreign language skills were instrumental in teaching and navigating the cultural barriers between students and staff. After four immensely fruitful years, Jinhi and her family were in search of a diverse environment, which prompted their move to the windy city.
In Chicago, Jinhi began teaching Spanish classes, but she was interested in pursuing translation, so she decided to enroll in the University of Chicago Translation School to obtain her certification in interpreting and translation. Shortly after that, she connected with InDemand in the Chicago area where she has continued her career in medical interpreting and translation for the past seven years.
“I began my career with InDemand as a Spanish interpreter, and I’ve seen it grow so much in seven years,” she said. “There were only 10 people in the Chicago office when I started and now there are more than 125 medically qualified interpreters.”
Jinhi also values her colleagues at InDemand and the wide variety of people she works with every day.
“I really love working with my wonderful interpreter colleagues,” she said. “They are people with incredibly rich backgrounds. Quite of few of our interpreters were doctors or medical professionals in their native countries prior to coming to the United States. They have very interesting life stories, and we share many things in common. It’s so nice to be able to work with colleagues who are also your friends.”
When Jinhi first learned about video remote interpreting (VRI), she was unsure of how it could provide a meaningful patient experience, but after spending a few weeks on the job, her opinion quickly changed.
“I love how quickly we are able to provide support for doctors and clinicians and immediately connect with patients,” she said. “Everyone has to wait for on-site interpreters, especially in the emergency room, but with VRI, we can provide support for patients right when they need it.”
She also sees a dramatic improvement in efficiencies and the ability to provide language access to multiple patients.
“As an on-site interpreter you can only help one patient every hour, at the very most, but with VRI, we can support 20 or 30 patients across multiple departments in just one hour. It’s an enriching exercise for us to get such a wide variety of experiences. In my entire seven years, I’ve only had two or three patients refuse VRI in preference for an on-site interpreter. The vast majority are incredibly happy to be helped. I am convinced that this is the way of the future, and as technology continues to advance, everything will be available via video. If we are available for patients and providers right when they need access to language services, why wouldn’t they use it?”