David Melendez, Medical Interpreter, Interpreter Services, UMass Memorial Medical Center
Spanish-language interpreter David Melendez sees himself as a bridge between patients and caregivers. "My job is to create that link of communication necessary for patients and providers to work together," he said. David's department provides medical interpreters for patients who speak a wide variety of languages, representing Worcester County's diverse population.
"Every day is different, which is one of the things I enjoy about my job," said David, who joined UMass Memorial Medical Center in 2004. He works with patients of all ages, both in-patient, out-patient, and in the Emergency Department. He's also on call as an after-hours resource interpreter. "It's all about putting the patient first."
What does it take to be a successful medical interpreter? "It's finding the best way to paint a clear picture for both the patient and the provider," David said. "Any statement can be made many different ways. It's remaining true to the content of the conversation, taking into account the person's age and their culture. We also pay attention to body language, so we feel confident that the message is coming across clearly."
David's role as a caregiver is critical. He recalls one patient who wanted to leave the hospital "AMA"—against medical advice. "He was putting his life in danger if he tried to leave," David said. After much conversation—with David interpreting—between patient and physician, the patient decided to remain in the hospital. David recalls another long-term patient who was being treated for a brain aneurysm and cancer. "We saw her daily and made a connection with her," said David. "We went through the ups and downs together."
David grew up in The Bronx in a bilingual household. He enjoys the camaraderie shared by the interpreters, many of whom come from different countries. No matter the language spoken, they all share the goal of providing quality patient care. "The most gratifying thing for me is when it’s clear that a patient understands what the provider has told them, and they can feel at ease with their plan and their treatment," he said. "When a patient appreciates what you do—there are no words to describe that."