Interpreting for Hospital Chaplains

At many hospitals and healthcare systems across the United States, spiritual services are an integrated part of patient care services. In other words, the services are part of the healthcare delivery model. As such, interpreting for hospital chaplains comes with the territory. Interpreters should, therefore, be proficient in the terminology and protocols of hospital chaplains.

pastoral care

Over the years, I have interpreted for a number of chaplains covering a range of situations: end of life meeting with the family of a patient, healing prayer before surgery, prayer of blessing and counseling after a stillbirth, and casual conversation, to name a few.

With these experiences, I can say that one thing interpreting for hospital chaplains has in common with every other encounter is this: I must interpret faithfully (pun intended), expressing the full meaning of the speaker’s message. When it comes to interpreting faithfully, it doesn’t mean that I have to agree with or believe the speaker’s words to be true or good or correct. Same is true for the rest of the people on the medical team: I don’t have to believe that the doctor’s diagnosis is true or good or correct. But I do have to interpret it with great precision. 

In order for me to interpret with great precision, I have to know my “stuff.”

Knowing my “stuff” includes knowing the terminology commonly used in pastoral care as well the protocols and role of the chaplain. This requires preparation and study. “You’re not just born knowing,” as the saying goes.

The good news is you can find a lot of resources on the Internet.

Here are a few resources to get you started:

Bonus tip: Check with your hospital’s spiritual services department for more resources and information.

Transitioning from discussions around symptoms and treatment plans to discussions around prayers and faith can be awkward, but it doesn’t have to be. With study you’ll be able to impress your non-interpreter friends with your knowledge of pastoral care, just like you impress them with your knowledge of anatomy and physiology. 

More importantly, your hospital chaplain and the individuals they serve will thank you for it. (Maybe not out loud, but they will.)

What experiences do you have interpreting for hospital chaplains? What resources have helped you interpret successfully in these situations

Posted on December 23, 2014 and filed under Interpreter.