Ursula Tice traces her on-the-job philosophy back to her upbringing. "I try to bring warmth to my place of work and to the people I interact with," says Tice, the lead Spanish interpreter in Interpreter Services. "A happy environment is a productive environment."
Tice's perspective is rooted in her childhood, growing up in Venezuela, when personal connections and communication were strongly emphasized. "In my culture, it's important to freely share our feelings and thoughts with family and friends. Nothing is insignificant," she says.
Born and raised in Caracas, Tice gave herself a head start on the English language before coming to the United States in 1981. "I started learning English on my own with a dictionary when I was 12," she says. "I had pen pals all over the world, and I wanted to communicate with them." In high school, she began studying English formally and eventually moved to Boston. In 1997, she decided to pursue her interest in interpretation and translation, and it was as a freelance interpreter that she first found herself at Children's Hospital Boston.
"I fell in love with the place," Tice remembers. "There was a great sense of culture and warmth." Her department has grown greatly since Tice went full-time nine years ago—the Spanish contingent of interpreters alone has increased from four to 12. As an interpreter, Tice believes how something is said is just as important as what is said. "We need to convey not just words but feelings and tones. There are cultural aspects that are imperative to consider in order to make communication flawless," she says.
"We try to educate the families we work with on how important their role is in their child's medical care," Tice continues. "Families need to be well-informed to optimize the treatment their children receive. This requires a team effort among all of us who play a part in clinical care. A language barrier can intimidate parents from taking part in the planning of treatment or can make them feel helpless."
Tice believes that culturally competent care has improved since she started working here—and that cultural acceptance is a two-way street. "We need to make people from other cultures feel as comfortable and well-served as possible, but we must also help them learn more about our country and our culture." Tice understands how important this is, as an immigrant herself. "It's hard to learn how to balance a new culture with your original one. The hardest part is keeping your customs and heritage alive while finding a happy medium between both cultures." Through translation and conversation, Tice helps patients, families and caregivers find their own balance at Children's every day.