Interpreter and translator Adrián Silva uses communication to support patients and staff

Adrián Silva, interpreter and translator at UI Hospitals & Clinics, has been assisting patients as they communicate with their providers for almost a decade.

At the age of eight, Adrián Silva moved from Mexico to Los Angeles. He picked up English quickly and was able to serve as an unofficial translator for his mom and grandparents.

As a teenager, Silva had severe asthma that required frequent visits to the hospital. While attending education classes on asthma, he would whisper translations to his mom.

“The importance of communication was very real,” says Silva, interpreter and translator at UI Hospitals & Clinics. “There was no room for misinterpretations or misunderstandings.”

Finding his calling

For almost a decade, Silva has been assisting patients as they communicate with their providers. He connects well with patients because he’s empathetic to the frustrations of not understanding English.

I take this responsibility seriously because any patient that I see is like I’m working with my mom or my cousin or my aunt, or my grandparents.

If a patient returns to the hospital for reoccurring appointments, Silva works with them throughout their entire journey. For pregnancies, he will stay with the parents for the full-term, and in some instances, will work with the children as they grow up.

“When they see me come in and if we’ve worked together before they light up,” Silva says. “I can see a lot of their anxiety and worries vanish.”

Building a bond

Seeing patients on a regular basis allows Silva to create relationships with them. One patient always looked forward to Silva’s visits so he could have a conversation with a familiar face.

Even though the patient was suffering, he didn’t hesitate to ask Silva about his personal life, including his family. When Silva mentioned his wife was pregnant again with another child, the patient was beaming, and even cracked a joke, saying, “Don’t you guys have a TV at home?”

After the visit, Silva recalls the patient appeared more relaxed. Being able to speak in a native language and have a friendly conversation is crucial to a patient’s well-being, says Silva.

UI Hospitals & Clinics interpreters and translators
UI Health Care interpreters holding signs in Spanish, French, Arabic, Swahili, Vietnamese and Mandarin that state “mask up” or “wear your mask.”

Not always easy

Working with patients across many departments, Silva has seen a wide array of situations, and unfortunately, they’re not always positive. In one instance, he worked with a family who suffered an unimaginable loss.

When the parents lost their baby to a genetic illness, Silva was there with them throughout their appointments. Awhile later, they returned to the hospital pregnant again and full of anxiety.

“The patient met a whole new OB team, but the one person that was not new was me, the interpreter,” he says. “I know that was a big, big responsibility to have.”

Thankfully, the baby during this pregnancy was healthy, and Silva was able to be there for their happy ending. Some situations can be sad or painful, but he knows that it’s crucial for him to stay strong.

“If I can’t be there to help them, who is going to be?” he says.

A permanent home

When Silva first visited Iowa City, he planned on only staying temporarily. Once he took on his role at the hospital, he fell in love with his job and knew he couldn’t leave.

“Working with such great staff members and with such great families that really depend on us, are the two reasons why I stay,” Silva says.