medical interpreter with headset working on laptop

How AMN Healthcare Supports Medical Interpreters Facing Vicarious Trauma

Major Challenges Interpreters Face

Interpreters are a voice for the unheard and the bridge between patients and medical providers. This integral position comes with exposure to medical and emotional trauma. The trauma can have a second-hand effect on interpreters and it is referred to as “vicarious trauma”. Another major challenge interpreters may experience is PTSD if a patient’s medical or familial circumstance hits close to home. Aside from these traumatic experiences, the beauty of having a unique skillset of medical interpretation can come with consequences such as burnout and stress.

Fortunately, AMN Healthcare Language Services is well-versed in the quandaries that are tied to medical interpretation. We provide a strong, empathetic team of leaders, as well as mental health resources available 24/7.

About Interpreter Vicarious Trauma and PTSD

“Vicarious trauma is not something that happens to you as a person, but it’s something that is a traumatic event as a witness that stays with you, so you’re experiencing [the trauma] through someone else as an interpreter,” explained Justin Rice, Senior Manager of Operations for AMN Healthcare Language Services. “You take the role of that person, you know, you become their voice, or if you’re a sign language interpreter, their voice and their ears.”

“In addition, by speaking in the first person and constantly repeating ‘I’, interpreters internalize the trauma and start to experience it as their own. It is not someone else telling a story, it is the interpreters themselves saying those words and expressing those feelings.” (Nimdzi).

Post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) can also appear if an interpreter experienced a similar situation in the past. For example, some interpreters could be working with a refugee when in fact they were a refugee themselves. Another example is the emotions the COVID-19 pandemic raised for interpreters. Marisol Gutierrez, Certified Medical Interpreter (CMI) and Senior Language Operations Manager for AMN Healthcare Language Services, expanded, “that COVID obviously turned the world upside down. We had interpreters having to interpret the loss of a father, a mother, a sister, or a brother during COVID, [meanwhile] they, themselves, may have lost a brother or sister or parent.”

How We Help Team Members Navigate Trauma

“The biggest support our interpreters receive is through the 24/7 communication [using Microsoft Teams]. “I always say that although you work alone, you never feel lonely because we have such a close-knit community with our teams and our managers. This includes colleagues, we provide a space where team members can consult with each other and even joke around,” shared Marisol. Justin added, “We have managers across the country and in different countries, so all time zones are covered.”

Justin continued to explain other resources, “AMN Healthcare extends the EAPs (Employee Assistance Programs) to our interpreters across three countries. Interpreters who suffer from depression or anxiety can receive free therapy and are given access to resources in their area.” Besides mental health resources, AMN Healthcare provides basic guidance. Justin gives an example, “On my team we have a lot of immigrants who’ve only been here [in the U.S.] for a short amount of time to the point where they are still learning to navigate the system here. One of our team leaders is very hands on with folks like this. These interpreters may come from places where there isn’t infrastructure or they’ve been living in a war zone. So, these are challenges that we’ve faced and that our managers become well-versed on.”

Marisol pointed out, “Another group of people to mention are our team leads that are there 24/7 to support interpreters no matter what time. Obviously, managers aren’t here 24/7, but there are team leads to provide around the clock communication and support. Sometimes they’re just someone to debrief with after a particularly difficult interpreting session.”

Joining a Team That Cares

The managers are all interpreters themselves. Having not only the empathy, but also sympathy for the stress that interpreters are under makes a difference. Marisol shared that there are sessions that just leave you crying, and Justin shared that he has worked through his own vicarious trauma. This unique managerial experience is what makes our team supportive, open, and willing to help. If you’re a certified interpreter who is compassionate and has a tenderness for people who may be in a critical condition, please visit our career page and apply today to speak with a team member.


Karandysovsky, G. (2020, April 10). The Cost of Caring – Vicarious Trauma in Interpreters. Nimdzi.

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