WASHINGTON (DC News Now) — The Hispanic population is only continuing to grow in the D.C. region but when it comes to healthcare, there can be a language barrier.
That’s why medical interpreters fill a crucial role.
“Hola. Buenos tardes. Mi nombre es Sandra y soy interpreter,” Sandy Montalvo, Spanish medical interpreter at Howard University Hospital, said.
Montalvo said she loves what she does, helping patients get through trying times.
“If you notice when they’re able to communicate with somebody that can understand them and … somebody that could speak their language, they seemed so relieved,” Montalvo said.
She crisscrosses Howard University Hospital daily, sometimes seeing 12 patients a day.
Sometimes she’s called to help with a routine endoscopy or emergency surgery.
“When we are in [Labor and Delivery] all of a sudden, a baby, that they’re having a descent that the baby’s heartbeat and we have to run with the patient to surgery,” Montalvo said.
Either way, she’s helping people in need get the care they deserve.
“I’m helping not only because they’re Hispanic, because they’re human beings, period. And I think, for me, it’s it’s rewarding,” Montalvo said.
Her presence takes some patients by surprise.
“It’s very important to me because I can’t speak the language,” Montalvo said. “Translating for a patient … it took me by surprise. I had no idea that I was going to have an interpreter present at the time of my procedure.”
Montalvo has been a medical interpreter for more than 30 years. In the last decade or so, she’s seen a boom in the Hispanic population.
“It’s a great need right now because we are growing the population, the Hispanic population is growing so rapidly,” Montalvo said.
With that, the demand in the hospital is high.
“I have a phone and I have two phones that I carry with as well and I’m being called constantly,” Montalvo said.
They do have a system called the Martti doctors can use to get an interpreter remotely if she’s not available.
“But the doctors prefer a person because the interaction is completely different and the process is faster,” Montalvo said.
“I’m there. You don’t need the WiFi for me,” Montalvo said with a chuckle.
It’s a profession Montalvo didn’t plan on, but something she’s grateful she fell into.
“It’s wonderful to be able to be a medical interpreter and help the people,” Montalvo said.