Maybe this question is best answered using an example:

The case:

Recently I was called by a German lady whose father wasn’t well. She had come over from Germany to care for him. 

She visited the medical center in her father’s neighbourhood. However, neither of them spoke Spanish and they had to come back the following day with an interpreter.

When we arrived at the medical center I asked father and daughter what had been the problem. The doctor concluded that our client, during a previous consult and hospitalization,  had misunderstood his advice concerning his medications. As a result, our client had not taken his vital medicines for several days. 

What was happening?

Once initial tests were done, it turned out that the condition of the patient was worse than expected. The doctor advised the daughter and her father to go to the hospital immediately for further tests. I accompanied them to the hospital and translated between the patient and the emergency doctor. He decided to have the patient transferred to one of the academic hospitals in Tenerife.

Our client was discharged the next day and I informed his daughter that she could go and pick up her father. Then, on her way back home, she noticed that her father hadn’t spoken a word since their departure and she called me again. I advised her to go back to the hospital immediately. I told them that I was going to join them there as soon as possible. Because the father had misinterpreted the advice of the doctors a chain of reactions in his body eventually led to him having a stroke.

What did I do as an interpreter?

During our client’s stay in the hospital, I spoke with the treating physician on a daily basis and I relayed the relevant information to the relatives. I regularly met with the family to explain the current situation of their father and partner. 

There were many questions from the relatives regarding procedures and how certain things function in Tenerife. I was able to answer their questions. 

Why makes being an interpreter so special?

The relatives expressed their gratitude saying that they wouldn’t have managed without the help of an interpreter. It is a great feeling to know that you can understand what is happening. That you can explain to the relatives what is being done. It is good to know that nothing gets lost in translation.

The above story is what makes working as an interpreter special. As an interpreter, you can relieve the anxiety and fear that people feel when they get into a situation like this, especially when this happens in a country in which you don’t speak the language. 

Using an interpreter in healthcare is crucial to ensure people with little or no spoken Spanish can access services, receive an appropriate standard of care, and health and satisfaction outcomes can be improved.

To understand and be understood is vital and I feel fortunate to be able of service.