A self-described “people person,” Ana Maria Rios-Velez, QMI, of Interpreter Services, loves helping others, learning new things and seeing the immediate results of her efforts.
“That’s why I pursued interpreting as a career. I thought it would be an interesting job, and I was so right,” she said of her nine years in Interpreter Services at the Brigham. “Helping a language-marginalized individual to express their needs, concerns and gratitude makes this career very rewarding.”
While the COVID-19 surge this spring changed many things, one thing remained constant for Rios-Velez: the fulfillment she finds in assisting patients.
What were the biggest changes to your role during the crisis?
AMRV: Switching interpretation modalities and using personal protective equipment (PPE) all the time for in-person visits. Prior to the pandemic, 95 percent of interpretations were face to face, with occasional phone interpretations. I rarely needed PPE. With COVID-19, we were learning to don and doff and to use remote modalities, including telephone and video, to preserve PPE and practice physical distancing.
How did you maintain your connection with patients?
AMRV: The greatest challenge for me as a people person was not being physically present with patients. When the hospital piloted the Video Intercom Communication System, I was able to assist the teams via video, remotely from my office or on the Special Pathogens Units outside the patient’s room. I was sometimes able to see them through the window glass, wave and send them good vibes! Most were my regular patients or families whom I assist in ambulatory settings, and they recognized my familiar face.
What was one lesson you learned from this experience?
AMRV: I learned that adaptability is very important. We need to be able to adjust to different conditions and be flexible.
What do you want other members of the Brigham community to know about the Interpreter Services team?
AMRV: Interpreter Services is always ready and eager to facilitate the communication between limited-English proficiency patients and front-line clinicians, researchers and staff. I encourage everyone to first contact Interpreter Services and use our vendors as a last resource for interpretation. We help patients and their families navigate the health system, and we know them at a “local” level. Staff interpreters providing language support can make sure that nothing falls through the cracks. We always make sure patients get the appointments they need, and we possess a significant sense of value and belonging to our institution and our communities. Even if a staff interpreter is remote, the patients engage more when they hear a familiar voice, and this leads to better outcomes.
All Interpreter Services staff are on campus, providing in-person interpreting for inpatients and outpatients. Call 617-732-6639 for interpretation needs.