Medical Team Values Interpreters


Today is International Translation Day. In honor of this day, I’d like to share three true stories of moments when the work of interpreters* was valued and appreciated by members of the medical team.

Story 1

It was a busy day at the Emergency Room. I entered the exam area and introduced myself, the interpreter, with the usual protocols. The physician, in a very kind way, said that he thought the family member was doing a pretty good job and that I wasn’t needed to interpret. The cool part is what happened next. The nurse in the room immediately informed the doctor in a very clear and direct tone, “We need an interpreter. She’s staying.” That was that. The doctor didn’t balk. The family was glad to be family and let me take the responsibility for facilitating communication. 

Kudos to the nurse for knowing that family members are not interpreters and for unapologetically insisting that the interpreter interpret.

Sometimes we, the interpreters, have to blaze our own trails. It’s nice when a member of the medical team does that for us.

Story 2

I was interpreting for a patient and her primary care physician. It happened to be the physician’s last day at the clinic. Knowing this would be their last encounter, the patient expressed her gratitude for the great care she received, and the physician, in turn, expressed his appreciation for entrusting him with her medical care. Then the really cool part happened. The physician turned to me, the interpreter, and also thanked me – but really all the interpreters – for interpreting for him in his tenure at the clinic. He said, “You (the interpreters) really enhance my practice.”

Wow! To have a physician describe the interpreter’s work as an “enhancement” was sweet music to the ears.

Story 3

The third story is up to you, esteemed interpreter and translator colleagues! Please share your story of a time when your work was acknowledged and appreciated by a member of the care team, the patient, or a family member. Leave your story in the comment box.

Happy International Translation Day to all who work tirelessly to advance, advocate, and provide language services in their communities. Your work matters. You matter. 

*I know interpreters and translators are different, but we can share a holiday, yes?