Staff spotlight: volunteer interpreters
Our volunteer interpreters are current members of staff that volunteer alongside their roles at UHS. They help patients to understand what is happening to them - from diagnosis to treatment - and support other members of staff by helping them to communicate with patients.
'Being a doctor back home in China has really helped me in my role as a volunteer interpreter for patients that speak Mandarin. It’s a familiar environment for me, and because I understand more of the medical terminology, I can communicate better with patients and staff.
'When I first started, it was difficult at times, because I didn’t understand the meaning of certain words and needed to double check I was right, as I didn’t want to pass on incorrect information. However, I really like working as a volunteer in a hospital, because it’s great experience for me and really rewarding. I love meeting new people and improving my skills at the same time.
'My ultimate goal is to become a doctor in the UK, for which I’ll need to pass the IELTS and PLAB tests, so volunteering as an interpreter is a great way for me to develop my language skills while helping an industry that I’m very passionate about.'
'I did the course to become an interpreter a few years back, after joining the Trust in 2013 and mainly interpret for Romanian and Greek patients that come to the emergency department. I also work 30 hours a week as an emergency nurse in the emergency department.
The best part of my job is that it’s always rewarding to know that you’re there for your patients, making a difference in their lives. Sometimes I’ll get called in because the patient doesn’t understand what’s going on, they don’t understand the language and they don’t know what’s happening to them. When I’m there, they know that there’s someone there to help them.
There are challenges – the culture difference of working in the NHS has been challenging in particular, because like all medical systems, the NHS is unique. Because it’s emergency medicine, there’s also this ‘expect the unexpected’ mentality in the emergency department; there’s no way to predict what’s coming in, so you have to be ready for everything. It’s always busy and never the same.
One night I was asked to see a Romanian patient on the cardiac ward who needed to go for a procedure in the middle of the night. She didn’t have a clue what was going on, didn’t speak English and had no relatives with her. I explained exactly what was going to happen and managed to reassure her about the upcoming procedure. It’s not just good for patients, but for the doctors as well – it means they have someone to bridge the gap between the patient and the care. Eliminating a language barrier means it’s safer for the patient, because both sides are able to communicate.
I’ll probably come across someone that needs translation help on a weekly basis in our department. It’s a good job, and it definitely keeps me busy! I feel like I can connect with the patients, because I don’t just speak their language, but I understand their culture too. Patients that need my help translating tend to feel more relaxed and comfortable when they talk to me.'
'Interpreters create a bridge between the healthcare professionals and the patients. You help out your fellow colleagues as well as helping the patients, and you don’t expect anything for it; you just do it because you know you’re helping the NHS. Both the patient and the doctor need you.
'Sometimes we’re just required for fifteen minutes (sometimes even less), but those fifteen minutes could be life-changing to a patient.
'The most challenging part is trying not to get attached to the patients. Sometimes we have to give bad news to a patient that’s already in a difficult situation, and I find that tough. But being a volunteer helps you to find a sense of accomplishment and purpose. It’s satisfying to see the people around me happy, because I know I’ve done well.
'I liked working here as a volunteer so much that I actually recently joined the Trust as a healthcare assistant!'
Interested in learning more about volunteering opportunities at UHS? Email our team at firstname.lastname@example.org or call them on 023 8120 4688.