Dealing with COVID-19 as a Healthcare Interpreter

03/02/2020 19:58 | Shelley Fairweather-Vega (Administrator)

Washington State seems to be a hotspot for the novel coronavirus COVID-19. Just in time, NOTIS member and interpreter trainer Yuliya Speroff offers good advice for protecting yourself on the job. For more from Yuliya, join her Facebook group:


If you haven't heard of COVID-19, you might be living on Mars. And for those of us based in Washington State, the recent news might be especially worrying. It can be difficult not to panic as you see clinic receptionists wearing face masks with eye shields, or when you go to the grocery store and see empty shelves where there ought to be hand sanitizer, soap, bottled water and toilet paper. The term ‘coronapocalypse’ is being circulated on social media - referring to the spread of the virus itself, the subsequent slew of news stories and social media posts as well as the panicked buying of supplies. 

With all the news and misinformation coming to us from every source, even the most level-headed of us can start to feel alarmed. And as interpreters working in healthcare settings, it may feel like we’re in the line of fire due to the very nature of our work. Many of us work as freelance interpreters, moving between multiple locations every day - from busy emergency rooms to clinics and hospital floors. Some of us frequently work with vulnerable patients - for example, those with weakened immune systems, as well as the elderly. In light of the above, it is our responsibility to educate ourselves so that we can stay safe and keep our loved ones and the people we work with safe. How do we do that? 

  1. Start by reading information from reliable official sources like the Center for Disease Control (CDC) and the World Health Organization (WHO). 

  2. It might also be a good idea to check with your local public health authority. For those of us living in the Greater Seattle area, it’s King County Public Health. 

  3. If you prefer to get your news and information from social media, subscribe to the above sources on Facebook and Twitter. This way you’ll be getting the latest updates and live videos of press conferences: Public Health - Seattle & King CountyCDC, WHO.

  4. Look out for communication from your employers and/or agencies you’re contracted with. For example, the state vendor, Universal Language Services, sent out an email providing an update on COVID-19-related measures from Swedish Medical Center which include going through screening for respiratory symptoms and fever prior to entering SMG facilities. 

  5. Read the latest advice on wearing masks.

  6. If in doubt, ask medical providers you are interpreting for if it might be appropriate for you to wear personal protective equipment including masks and gloves. 

  7. If you’d like to get some information that is on the lighter side - that is, if you're a fan of infotainment - check out Dr. Mike's YouTube video: Coronavirus Is A PANDEMIC....Technically.

  8. And here are some podcasts related to the subject: 

This Podcast Will Kill You: Episode 43 M-m-m-my Coronaviruses

NPR Life Kit: 5 Ways To Prevent And Prepare For The Coronavirus

This American Life: Mr. Chen Goes to Wuhan

(Russian) Критмышь: Короновирусная истерия

Important note: This post was written on March 2, 2020. The situation is evolving rapidly, so keep checking the sources listed above and stay safe! As a popular meme says: Keep calm and wash your hands! 


Powered by Wild Apricot Membership Software