What year did you graduate?
What course did you study?
What is your current role?
Hospital Interpreter (and Masters in Translation student)
How did you get into your current role?
The path into my current career was certainly not ‘direct’. I moved back to Tenerife after finishing my BSc (I had worked there during my gap year) with the aim of improving my Spanish and was able to study whilst working for an Entertainment company, where I used my tech skills honed at St George’s through my role as a technical officer in the Student Union. I spent a year working on my language combinations and was then offered a job in a small private clinic. There I was able to gain the experience needed to apply for my current Interpreter role.
Can you describe a typical day?
I work in a large Spanish hospital where up to 50% of the patients are tourists and therefore don’t speak Spanish. I make up part of a team of 20 interpreters who bridge the language gap between the health professionals and patients. We cover over 10 languages and each interpreter has their own language combination and is contactable via pager. My combination is Spanish-French-German-English so when this combination is required the department, say Radiology, or the specific consultant, say the cardiologist, would page me and direct me to where I am needed. If I am working on a morning shift, my day would usually start with ward rounds which occupy the first few hours. I would then write up patient profiles based on the patients I had seen with the doctor and resolve any issues they might have not been able to communicate to the nursing team overnight. If I am working on an afternoon shift, my day would tend to revolve around translating outpatient appointments and the afternoon intensive care visits for family members. I also work shifts as part of the emergency department interpreter team. A typical shift here would involve meeting the ambulance as it arrives and rapid-fire translation between the emergency team and patient to gather a quick medical history. We would then be available to translate throughout the various stages of their treatment; as well as to update the patients loved ones when necessary.
What do you enjoy about your role?
I love the variety involved in my role- every day is different. I also love how much I learn every day, particularly about a subject that I find so interesting. The job also offers the opportunity to make strong bonds with the patients and their families- as they are unable to communicate with the majority of the medical team it falls to the interpreters to offer the necessary emotional support and guidance.
What do you find challenging in your current role?
Giving bad news. Whilst it is of course the doctor giving the bad news, being the person that translates it for the patients loved ones is incredibly emotional and hard.
What advice would you give to a current student at St George’s who is keen to get into a similar area of work as you?
Consider which country you would want to be working in and research whether the language combinations you have are suitable. Understand which languages are necessary and learn/improve accordingly.
Which aspects of your degree are relevant for your current role?
The taught content. Having a good understanding of physiology, anatomy, lab tests and processes etc. facilitates the translation of technical terminology and complicated subjects.
Do you have any advice or a message for current students at St George’s?
Don’t feel like you have to take the most direct route! It can be overwhelming as a Biomed student, surrounded by loads of driven medical students who seem to have it all figured out. When I started at St George’s, I didn’t even know that my current career existed! Just try to immerse yourself in all the extracurricular activities that interest you and pursue what you enjoy- you will build a unique and well rounded profile that reflects you and eventually the job that suits you.
Do you have any advice or a message for students considering studying at St George’s?
Pursuing interests outside of the course itself is incredibly important and rewarding. St George’s is big enough to offer a lot of extracurricular activities but small enough that you don’t get swamped and overwhelmed with an over-sized student body. It is therefore a great option if you want to get a more well rounded experience from University.