Interpreter Self-Care: Being affected by what you do

As healthcare interpreters, we might not consider ourselves to be protagonists in the events and environment that we experience on a daily basis, but we are, nevertheless, affected by them.

Prior to becoming a healthcare interpreter, I was informed of the many challenges that healthcare interpreters face in their field — the emotionally charged encounters; the unpleasant sights, sounds and smells; the odd hours and long shifts.

I knew of all these and other challenges ahead of time, and, as such, was able to identify and respond to them reasonably well.

I also knew that working in the field of healthcare would have an impact on me personally, but I was a little surprised about the self-discoveries I made.

For example: I discovered after years of interpreting that I had developed an increasingly diminished ability to form and express my own thoughts. Turns out, while I was spending all day expressing other people’s thoughts and words, I was losing the skill of forming and expressing my own. This has caused me to be more intentional about taking time to engage in activities that give me a chance to speak in my own voice.

I also discovered that it really doesn’t bother me at all to see other people get poked with needles — but when I am the patient getting poked, I get a little lightheaded at the sight of the needle entering my arm. This has made me more sensitive to the emotional stress that patients might be feeling when in the doctor’s office, even if they don’t express it in any external way.

For better or worse, we are impacted by what we experience and by what we do. Through it all, it is important that we take care of ourselves. One way to do that is to take time to acknowledge the impact your work as a healthcare interpreter is having on you as a person.

How has interpreting in healthcare affected you personally?

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