Reflections on Building Trusting Relationships
Staff Somali Interpreter, Interpreter Services Department
I joined the Interpreter Services team in 1998, and shortly thereafter began collaborating with Nawal Nour, MD, to create the African Health Center for Women. This clinic provides specialized medical care and treatment to women who have undergone genital circumcision. A valued member of the team and a woman who identifies with female patients’ unique experiences, I work to build relationships and create a cultural and linguistic “bridge” between clinicians, patients and their families. I assist providers in developing trust and rapport with their Somali patients.
My presence in the triad helps both parties better respect and trust one another, leading to continuity of care. By meeting before and after an interaction with the provider, I can advise providers about cultural boundaries that they may not be familiar with. For example, some Somalian women won’t shake hands with men and are likely to be offended by touch unless it is explained clearly. Various rules about dress, head covering and modesty are also discussed. I put doctors at ease by normalizing care for women who have had their genitals circumcised. I pay attention to “hotspots” of potential misunderstanding, such as the newly popular question asked by clinicians, ‘Do you Feel Safe at Home?’ to indicate that this question applies to ones’ current living situation in the U.S. and not to fear of going back to Somalia.
When it is time to make major medical decisions, it is integral that Somalian families play a huge role in keeping with cultural norms, and this must be taken into serious consideration in delivering care. Occasionally, I recommend the use of telephonic interpretation, especially for highly private or charged conversations, in order to respect privacy in my tight-knit community.
It gives me joy to be able to use my linguistic skills and my cultural knowledge as well as my compassion to build relationships and create access to medical care. I could not be more proud to be a member of the Brigham family.