My experiences of shadowing a medical interpreter at the Virginia Department of Health (VDH) and later volunteering as a medical interpreter at Loudoun County Free Clinic were complementary, and indeed provided very valuable experiences. I had the chance to experience one type of solution to helping low-income populations, and observe its functionality by looking at each of the clinic’s social dynamics.
I witnessed situations that were charged with emotion, talked to people who were facing incredibly difficult decisions, and observed the effects of real interracial tension. But I also saw and met a number of people who took great pride in their work, making tremendous efforts to provide services with kindness and respect. In these types of clinics, when the intended mission is clearly to make a positive impact, it is important to work on eliminating thinking and action that homogenizes any group of people, as seen in some of my observations. Comments that emphasize stereotypical views of Hispanics are in conflict with the notion that each person has their own personal identity. At the same time, actively learning about the true identities of the types of patients that come to a clinic can perhaps provide a better idea to staff about what their patients are going through, and maybe even lead to better treatment.
I would speculate that the problems that stem from having a mixed social dynamic primarily come from a lack of education, or at least a lack of critical thinking, on the subject. Providing educational training about the nuances of immigration can help set a standard that fosters empathy but preserves professionalism in clinical settings.