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Find us at St. Joes
St. Joseph's Health Centre Toronto

Bridging cultures and languages

Silvia CrociHigh quality health care involves providing information to patients so they can make informed decisions about their own health – which can become a challenge when patients and providers don’t speak the same language. This is when interpreter services becomes vital. At each of our sites, we have partnerships with agencies or interpreters who become part of our care team, providing interpretation support for both health-care providers sharing diagnoses and advice and for patients communicating their questions and wishes. Silvia Croci is an Accredited Community Interpreter who provides Italian interpreter support at St. Joseph’s – we caught up with her to learn more about what she does.

How do you describe the job of an interpreter?
We get to be the voice of patients to support them in their care. That becomes especially important when they’re making difficult decisions because not everyone always agrees – my role is to make sure that everything said is interpreted accurately and clearly.

You might have to interpret a negative diagnosis for a patient – like that their treatment isn’t working or palliative care is their only option. Is it difficult to not show emotion during those conversations?
Yes, but interpreters are trained to be neutral. Interpreters may be physically present during the conversation but they are not part of the conversation – that’s what you always have to remember. I am also usually briefed beforehand which helps me prepare in advance for interpreting situations that are more emotionally challenging.

What kind of an impact does that have on you?
Interpreters can experience vicarious trauma because of exposure to stressful and emotionally charged situations. The interpreter community in recent years has developed a debriefing program to provide support – I’m a facilitator and in those sessions, we provide a confidential space for interpreters to speak about their experiences without judgment.

Why is it important to have interpreters as part of health-care teams?
When receiving care, it’s critical that patients understand the medical information being given to them in order to make informed decisions and for providers to understand patients’ needs. Relying on family members for interpretation can pose issues because there’s emotion involved and they’re not trained so they may not know the medical terminology. Interpreters help make the experience better for both patients and providers by reducing the risk of misunderstandings and communication errors and providing patients the opportunity to be more involved in their care. Our job is helping empower them to have the best care experience possible.

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