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Getting to Know You: Itza Tellez

March 15, 2013

Thinking about going to medical school? Try being an interpreter first.

At least that’s the advice you’d get from Itza Tellez, a veteran interpreter at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago who is currently preparing for medical school.

There’s No Smiling in Interpreting!

Itza has always known she wanted to be a doctor, and her bilingual and bicultural upraising and language skills have been her ticket into the medical world. While working for a medical interpreting agency, she found herself on many assignments at our former location, Children’s Memorial Hospital, where she really connected with our patients, staff and culture.

“I fell in love not only with interpreting, but with Children’s itself. It was a lot different than any of the other hospitals I had been to. It was the perfect place for me to learn about medicine, which is what I wanted to do, and it allowed me to use my language skills and pick up medical terminology. It all just worked out.”

She likes her job so much that it was almost a problem for her on a number of occasions.

“When we get paged, we’re not always told what the situation is and we’re not really allowed to advocate for patients or doctors, so we make sure we enter every assignment with neutral faces and emotions. That was hard for me at first: I was constantly smiling because I loved my job so much! I learned to control that, though, because there are times when I would be walking into a very serious assignment, and a smile just isn’t appropriate. You have to be cognizant of each situation’s complexities.”

Not Your Ordinary Interpreting Gig

Interpreters are exposed to every specialty, every floor, every doctor and every situation that a hospital has to offer, so the 12 years Itza spent as a hospital employee acted as the perfect prep course for her future career. One of the best parts about her job, Itza says, is not only her constant opportunities to learn new things, but also the chances she gets to make a difference in the lives of patients and families. Interpreters remove the communication barrier between families and doctors that could otherwise negatively impact a patient’s treatment, and that has real consequences.

“It’s nice to be able to help families in what can be really stressful situations; you get to kind of provide a sigh of relief to both worried parents and concerned doctors.”

Her second favorite part of her job? Always being on the move. Every assignment is different, from the doctors to the patients to the specialty, and it’s that constant variety that keeps her job interesting and helps her thrive.

“There’s never a dull moment, and that keeps me learning. It’s a good thing.”

Her Next Assignment

And it looks like there won’t be any dull moments after she earns her own white (or gray) jacket, either. Itza plans on practicing pediatric emergency medicine someday — we don’t know about you, but to us it sounds like the perfect fit.

Visit our website to learn more about our Interpreting Services, and check out our Q&A with Itza to learn a little more about this star interpreter!

What is your background at the hospital?

I am a medical interpreter and psychiatric milieu therapist.

What has been your most special moment at Lurie Children’s?

Wow, there have been many, so I will have to pick one. Seeing the look on kids’ faces when Santa surprises them on Christmas Day!

What does “It starts with you” mean to you?

As staff we play a significant role in setting the tone of the day for colleagues and patient-families. If we smile and have a good attitude, we will have a great shift no matter what the day may bring!

Who inspires you at work?

The people who have been a part of this organization for many years inspire me. Each and everyone one of them; be it a clerk, social worker, environmental services staff, nurse, engineer, cook or doctor has a genuine desire to create the best experience possible for patient-families and staff. They have carried on this unique quality and it is what makes our hospital great!

Who inspires you outside of work?

My parents who started with little, yet have provided my brother and I with unlimited possibilities. 6. What is your favorite movie? Valentín, an Argentinian movie that tells the story of a little boy who is forced to grown up quickly due factors out of his control. His character is funny, loving and wise — like many of our patients.

If you were stranded on a desert island, what three items would you bring?

A copy of Don Quijote to keep me entertained, my gym shoes to go running and a fully charged cell phone!

What makes you really, really mad?

I don’t often get really, really mad but it is upsetting to see people suffer from illnesses that could have been prevented or controlled.

What are you most proud of?

Being a part of Lurie Children’s!