Interpretation in the Medical World

During a recent encounter with a Spanish-speaking family, the hospice coordinator, the interpreter, and I met with these loved ones in order to arrange the most appropriate plan of care that would best meet the patient’s wishes. As we dialogued about various treatment plans, I found myself becoming lost with the conversation occurring between the family and interpreter and focusing more on the non-verbal cues, thus, trying to determine the family’s wishes without comprehending their language.

Reflecting upon this experience, I became keenly aware of what many families face in the medical world today as they must make difficult healthcare decisions. Many loved ones enter through our hospital doors—clueless to how the medical world functions and feeling overwhelmed in tackling the choices that may drastically affect the patient’s well-being. This becomes an even greater challenge when a language barrier exists. Therefore, like I did with this family, loved ones seek areas of “connection” from us as medical team members—whether it be through our verbal explanations, compassionate voice tones, friendly facial expressions, or our willingness to provide extra assistance. They rely on our expertise as a guiding force through the complexities of the healthcare system, and as Jesus modeled through the washing of the disciples’ feet, we are encouraged to continue this demonstration of servanthood in our interactions with these family members.

Lord, help us to bring clarity to the chaos, especially to those whom we serve. Guide us in our words and actions, so we may bring peace to those facing difficult decisions. In Your name I pray, Amen.

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