Breaking barriers: The importance of interpreting services

Syra Hurtarte, Spanish interpreter
Syra Hurtarte, Spanish interpreter

Take a moment and imagine you’re in a hospital bed. Now, imagine you’re in a hospital bed and you don’t speak the same language as your health care team. Enter Syra Hurtarte, a Spanish interpreter for UI Health Care.

Hurtarte decided on her career path after she sustained an accident at 25, leaving her hospitalized where she saw firsthand the value of an interpreter.

“I saw patients who needed someone to translate for them and I saw how helpful it was,” says Hurtarte. “So, I became an interpreter and have been translating for 34 years.”

Now, she’s providing the valuable service for other patients who need it.

“When I first meet a new patient, I always tell them they can rely on me,” says Hurtarte. “Then, I make sure they know that every worker in this hospital is here to help them, so they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.”

When I first meet a new patient, I always tell them they can rely on me. Then, I make sure they know that every worker in this hospital is here to help them, so they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for it.

Beyond the job description

“I think everybody deserves our help and beyond,” says Hurtarte. “I’m not here just to do my job and move on. I’m here to help the person from the beginning until the end. I want to help the person feel better about everything, from the service we provide to the education that the nurses give them.”

After seeing patients multiple times, Hurtarte builds relationships with many of them.

“There’s a lot of trust involved with the process,” she says. “I tell my patients that I’m going to say exactly what the doctor is saying. If they, or the doctor, don’t want me to say something, I tell them not to say it, because I’m obligated to say everything that’s said in the room.”

The good and the bad

Despite her passion, Hurtarte says there are some very difficult aspects of her role.

“Telling somebody that their loved one is not going to make it never gets any easier,” she says.

However, she cherishes the incredibly happy moments.

“Telling somebody that’s being treated that they’re going to recover is wonderful,” says Hurtarte. “Telling somebody that their baby was born and that they’re healthy and happy, nothing’s better.”