Name: Alicia Booth
Degrees: Bachelor of Science in Signed Language Interpretation, Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism.
Hometown: That is up for debate: Born in Hermiston, Oregon and relocated to Albuquerque, New Mexico at a very young age.
Currently Lives in: On the move – currently based out of Billings, Montana, but travel frequently for away medical rotations and supervision/coordination of other DP/DI medical teams.
Current Job: Lead Designated Interpreter and Owner of Designated Interpreters LLC.
Undergraduate School & Year Graduated: University of New Mexico, Dec 2001
Interesting or relevant previous jobs: In my previous life, I have been a yoga teacher, an AmeriCorps National Civilian Community Corps Member, worked with Red Cross Disaster Relief, a Real Estate Agent, and a Public Relations Consultant. These occupations have helped shape my ability to multi-task, analyze organizations on a macro and micro level, and seek knowledge. At every corner I find that I am still learning!
Language(s) used: English, American Sign Language, studying cued speech.
Career: I have interpreted for over 15 years in a variety of settings such as music concerts, medical, educational, and business in various locations including New Mexico, Washington, DC, Maine, Arizona, Nebraska, Wisconsin, California, Hawaii, Montana, and other temporary and semi-permanent locations. Once I began the work of a Designated Interpreter in 2009, I knew that I had finally found my niche. Not only was the linguistic aspect fascinating, but blending services and tailoring accommodations for a traditionally disenfranchised community was also intriguing and continues to be rewarding. The demands of the medical hierarchy of privilege, power, status, and prescribed cultural norms constantly challenge those of us who work in the trenches, which, for me, adds to the appeal of this career.
How did you hear about AMPHL?
While attending the CATIE National Healthcare Conference in 2009, I met Dr. Moreland and Todd Agan, who presented an inspirational forum on the dynamic relationship of DPs (Deaf Professionals) and DIs (Designated Interpreters). Also, the deaf health care professional I worked with at the time, Josh Reiher, was a member of AMPHL, so naturally I got involved too.
How did you get into interpreting for medical professionals?
While I was working on a remote island in Northern Maine, I had made the decision to pursue focusing my work on medicine, perhaps for a hospital. I began my search for a position and was offered a few, but as fate would have it, The University of Wisconsin in Madison, WI had an opening to work with a medical student starting his clinical rotations. I went through a series of interviews that included interpreting arduous cardiac presentations and drafting memos to hospital administration, but the true part of the screening was meeting the medical student and passing the DP personality test he called the JOSHABILITY. Our personalities matched well and we dove into new territory together, creating signs, establishing team protocols, and blending the medical world with our world of Deaf culture and sign language.
If a school or student is looking for a qualified interpreter, any suggestions on where to look or how to advertise?
If the Deaf Professional already has a preferred interpreter, they should advocate to get them hired. If the school prefers to venture on their own and take on the tasks of recruiting, interviewing, training, hospital credentialing, and scheduling, then they should post an ad on job search engines such as indeed.com, or Registry of Interpreters for the Deaf, and they should definitely include the deaf individual in the interview and selection process to make sure the interpreters are aligned with their needs.
One of the primary reasons I launched Designated Interpreters LLC was to find the best match for students’ needs, whether it be personality, signing skill, adaptability, mobility, or all of those skills. Arranging comprehensive services can be unnecessarily intimidating for medical students and schools alike, so one of my goals is to mediate and ease the burdens of that process.
Any suggestions for training for this role?
There are several conferences that have started to focus on specific needs of designated healthcare interpreters, such as St Catherine’s National Healthcare Symposium, and AMPHL. The University of Rochester’s Masters in Healthcare Interpreting Program is also a great resource. Additionally, there are ongoing trainings and internships that we offer at Designated Interpreters LLC. For a more extensive look at resources offered go to this page for updates.
How did your job search go?
As odd as it seems, I believe I actually found a needle in a haystack: a wonderfully interesting job posting on a very large job search engine. They exist! I then went to the RID website and was able to cross reference it to find a more detailed position description.
Did you relocate for work? Pros/cons?
Due to away rotations and migrating medical students, I have relocated for work several times in the past few years. Benefits of this include learning about new people and places, not to mention how medical standards vary from state to state. Traveling in this way has diversified my way of thinking not about my work and fellow interpreters, but about myself as well. Personal growth often comes with change; thus, I try to keep this at the forefront of my mind when a relocation is imminent.
Relocating also has its challenges; building community is difficult when you jump from place to place, and often times family members simply cannot understand what precipitates relocating so frequently. Nevertheless, it’s a part of the career that has grown to be an exciting normality.
How important was it to match to your Deaf Professional? What was your match process like?
Having worked with more than half-dozen Deaf Professionals, I can attest to the fact that matching with a Deaf Professional is of paramount importance. Like all relationships, there are harmonious moments of joyful bliss, as well as bumpy stretches of road. Through these parabolic encounters, a peaceful medium should eventually be reached, where trust and mutual respect emerge.
Matching does not always happen immediately, as personal preferences and varying communication needs all evolve over time as circumstances change (which happens frequently in the world of medicine!) The DP and DI must have a core understanding of each other, which also eventually leads to a healthy equilibrium and positive work environment.
You’ve been involved with multiple medical institutions and deaf healthcare professionals at different stages of their training. What can you highlight about those variables?
From my previous work as a yoga instructor I was always reminded of the simple phrase, “beginner’s mind.” This means that although we gain knowledge throughout our years of study and practice, we will always need to approach each client and each institution as unique and special. While we draw from our past experiences and hope to bring a wealth of experiences with us to constantly improve services, we might find along the way that the Deaf Professional and or the institution may need us to start from grassroots so that they too can shape their own accommodations. We are always humbled as interpreters, no matter how far we have come in our profession, because our success is tied to the partnership and trust we create with individuals.
How did you and your DP provide feedback?
In today’s age of tweets, texts, Glides, and emails, feedback has the potential to arrive in a variety of flavors. In my experience, healthy and open feedback must occur frequently. Busy students and doctors should have the flexibility to provide feedback in whatever mode they choose.
Generally speaking, DPs that I’ve worked with provide feedback while we are on the go, after a shift, or at the beginning/end of a rotation over dinner, so that we might reflect on what’s working and not. This has been a humbling experience for both the DP and DI as the professions are intertwined. Creating a safe, respectful environment for feedback is vital to success. I always joke and tell new DIs in training that whether you like it or not your “skeletons will come out of the closet.” This work is very intimate and personal, as you witness life and death together.
How do you measure success in your role as a Designated Interpreter?
This is a tricky question because our success is, at times, tied to the success of our DP. However, at times our success is independently achieved by our own goals such as linguistic demands, interpretation outcomes, interpersonal relationships, and professionalism. As we are forging a new paradigm of interpreting for highly specialized Deaf Professionals we must always go back to the “beginner’s mind.” This is how we can achieve successful results by looking at each scenario with fresh perspective. It is valuable to apply the knowledge we have gained working in our field and with other clients, however, each accommodation deserves a new approach to achieve the gold standard. Personal commitment goes a long way as a DI. Continuing our studies in medicine, linguistics, hospital administration, and sharing this information to the field of interpreting is the only way to create change. I wrote this article this year and I hope to write many more!
Any good or funny stories?
I have many but will pick an adrenaline inducing tale. For the last several years, I had the great fortune to work with a DP, Michael Argényi, who is a thrill seeker. At every turn he was volunteering “us” for adventures that, over my 8 years, I never thought possible. So when he was invited to commute in a helicopter over the Arizona desert for a day of shadowing in an Emergency Room down south, I knew I would undoubtedly be on that ride. What I did not know was that when we arrived at the helicopter pad, the pilot announced that Michael would actually fly the helicopter! Have you ever interpreted flying instructions in the rearview mirror of a helicopter?! Every time Michael glanced up at me, the chopper would dip or sway its way uncertainly through the air. I am almost certain he did it to get my attention. Ha! Thank you, we survived, and I got to tour the Sonoran Desert from the air.