The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on medical interpreters / cultural mediators in Italy




medical interpreting, covid-19, right to healthcare, Italy


This contribution, prepared within the Erasmus+ ReACTMe (Research & Action and Training in
Medical Interpreting) project, aims at evaluating the impact of COVID-19 on access to medical interpreting and cultural mediation services in Italy. Medical  interpreters and cultural mediators, who play in Italy different although often overlapping roles, are particularly significant in removing language barriers to healthcare and social inclusion, despite the notable variation in the provision of these services in each European member state. Italy has been one of the first countries in Europe to be substantially affected by the COVID-19 pandemic in February 2020, going into lockdown as early as the beginning of March, and cancelling all non-urgent medical consultations in an effort to prevent the collapse of ICUs. A similar pattern was observed during the subsequent waves of the pandemic when healthcare services were provided to non-COVID patients although with limitations. To what extent were medical interpreting/cultural mediation services affected and how has this impacted non-Italian-speaking patients? This contribution presents the results obtained through an online survey submitted to medical interpreters/cultural mediators from all over Italy between November 2020 and
January 2021. The results reveal that the pandemic has negatively affected the provision of medical
interpreting/cultural mediation services with remote communication only partially making up for the lack of onsite language support and creating new challenges for both interpreters/cultural mediators and healthcare professionals.


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Author Biographies

Eleonora Bernardi, University of Bologna

Eleonora BERNARDI is a former medical interpreter and ACI accredited conference interpreter with Italian, English, French, and Croatian. Former adjunct professor at the University of Bologna’s Department of Interpreting and Translation and at the University of Macerata’s Department of Modern Languages and Language Mediation, she is currently working on her Ph.D. project in Interpreting Studies focussing on interpreters in the war that led to the dissolution of Yugoslavia in the 90s at the University of Bologna, Department of Interpreting and Translation. Her research interests are interpreting in conflict zones, history of interpreting, and medical interpreting.

Francesca Gnani, Università degli Studi Internazionali di Roma, Italy

Francesca GNANI holds a Master’s degree in Conference Interpreting (Italian, English, German) and attended a post-graduation specialization course on the Communication of Science. She has been working as a conference interpreter (focusing on medicine, science and institutional matters) and translator for more than 15 years. She is Adjunct Professor at the Faculty of Translation and Interpreting Studies of the Università degli studi internazionali di Roma. Additionally, she is Red Cross First Aid Instructor and a qualified member of AITI, Italian Translators' and Interpreters’ Association, where she is a member of the Regional Board.


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