Sociocultural Consultation and Interpretation Services (SCIS)

Sociocultural Consultation and Interpretation Services work throughout the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Language and cultural interpretations are conducted in all clinics, wards and Emergency both face to face and by telephone.  

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Our history

Sociocultural Consultation and Interpretation Services (SCIS) at the Montreal Children’s Hospital was founded in 1986 by a group of healthcare practitioners recognizing the need to better understand a family’s cultural health practices and their interaction wioth health diagnosis and intervention. Initially, SCIS (then known as Multiculturalism) focused on developing educational tools to understand different ethnocultural groups and individual health needs.

As the service evolved, there was greater attention given to the social determinants of health that intersect with ethnicity and culture, and the influences these factors have on health outcomes for patients. SCIS works with MCH personnel to negotiate complex issues arising from diverse cultural and social realities. These issues include disabilities, gender, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, indigenous status, religion, socioeconomic factors and their relationships to health equity for patients and families. The SCIS mandate is to promote awareness of sociocultural inequities and to collaborate in advancing equitable health care delivery.

SCIS follows a model cultural collaboration. This means:

  • committing to ongoing individual and collective awareness of inherent biases and stereotypes
  • acknowledging the presence of systemic racism and discrimination
  • demonstrating a willingness to work through these issues to redress inequities in patient/clinician and community relationships
  • arriving at mutual goals while respecting patients’ and families’ cultural and lifestyle needs or preferences
  •  including negotiation within the healthcare system and the wider community
Our team

The SCIS coordinator has a social work background and several years’ experience in developing sociocultural inclusion  policies and practices. The coordinator is responsible for education with different teams in the areas of diversity, anti-racism and health equity education; for recruiting and training interpreters, and mediating differences in cultural understanding. Two administrative agents handle the requests for interpreters and negotiate the special needs of patients, as well as organize cultural events. Up to thirty-five interpreters facilitate communication between families and clinicians in over forty languages. With experience in community interpreting, they come from a variety of backgrounds and share a commitment to working in a healthcare setting.  

Professional Coordinator: 

  • Marie Serdynska
Where the care happens

Sociocultural Consultation and Interpretation Services - SCIS work throughout the Montreal Children’s Hospital. Language and cultural interpretations are conducted in all the clinics, wards and Emergency, face to face and by telephone.  In addition, educational workshops, cultural events and a small number of interpretations also take place on the adult sites of the McGill University Health Centre (MUHC) and those of community partners. 

Programs and services

SCIS provide a range of options:

Education and development on working with cultural and social diversity: Workshops and seminars organized by SCIS are open to hospital personnel and are designed for the needs of specific teams or groups. Overall, SCIS assists health care teams and other staff members to integrate cultural/social issues and perspectives into their practices and presentations, and directs them to appropriate resource people or speakers.

Qualified interpreters: Language and cultural interpreters help staff communicate with patients and families in over forty languages and dialects. Language and cultural interpreters interpret both verbal and non-verbal communication, and by acting as mediators, they reduce cultural and linguistic misunderstandings and alert staff to social inequities. 

Literature searches: SCIS tracks electronic links related to culture, lifestyle, health disparities, health equity and cultural safety. Other topics include ethnoracial and sociocultural diversity, racism, microaggressions, and their impact on the healthcare encounter as well as collaborative approaches to health care.  Online searches are available by request. Sessions were open to all healthcare professionals and staff  and will continue with proposed  funding from the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation. 

Consultations: SCIS provides consultations on questions of cultural assessment, transcultural communication, ethnocultural health practices, working through interpreters, interracial relations, same-sex parenting, etc. Documentation and resources are available to assist clinicians in understanding cultural/social factors that may influence the care of, and communication with patients, families or groups.

Links with cultural communities: SCIS provides information about groups that support ethnocultural, disability, sexual orientation, gender and material needs. Communication and exchanges with these groups about resources, healthcare practices, and beliefs helps to build links. Many cultural holidays and special days associated with emerging communities of hospital users are acknowledged and celebrated at the MCH.

Conditions and treatments

An Indigenous Health Education project has been initiated in collaboration with the Northern and Native Health Program to raise awareness of the impact of residential schools on Indigenous patients’ health and culture. Sessions were open to all healthcare professionals and staff with funding from the Montreal Children’s Hospital Foundation.

Efforts are being made to raise awareness around the needs of the homeless and how the Montreal Children’s Hospital can improve service to meet needs of this diverse population. A Grand Rounds conference will be held in October 2016 with Social Pediatrics to examine how patients receive care.

As a member of The Migrant Friendly Task Force of HPH International (WHO), SCIS in collaboration with the Quality and Risk Management Department of the MUHC, is looking at how Health Equity initiatives are integrated or can be inserted into policies, practices and participation across the MUHC to ensure vulnerable groups gain equitable access to hospital services.

For patients and families who use the services of interpreters, many requests involve familiarizing and linking newcomers with refugee services in the communities.  Other requests can vary from seeking help with applications for Medicare and financial support for special health needs, to information on taking medication, translating pre-and post-surgery instructions, making links with CLSCs, helping families find resources for material support such as food and clothing, and joining with others to break isolation. 

Contact us

For interpretation services, please call (514) 412-4400 ext. 22351 or 514-406-1555 (pager) from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. 

Library services, community resources, cultural holidays:  ext. 23005

Education, development, consultations and diversity networks:  ext. 23002  


Embedding Health Equity into Policy, Practice and Participation

Symposium October 11 and 12 2017

To acknowledge the Thirtieth Anniversary of SCIS, a day and a half of Equity and Social Inclusion presentations took place at The MC Gill University Health Centre in Montreal. Topics ranging from Indigenous Health, LGBT Families, Gender Variance, those experiencing homelessness through to refugees, asylum seekers and the participation of vulnerable groups in healthcare were discussed. Intersections of Diversity were explored under the umbrella of HPH International Health Equity Standards and their implementation. Antonio Chiarenza from HPH (MED) Italy and Ragnhild Storstein Spilker HPH (MED) Norway were key speakers. In working groups, participants looked at ways of integrating equity standards and procedures into existing standards such as the accreditation process and organizational policies. The Health Equity Symposium was organized by Sociocultural Consultation and Interpretation Services at The Montreal Children’s Hospital, MUHC and ACCÉSSS - Alliance des communautés culturelles dans la santé et les services sociaux. Funding has been obtained to submit a report to the Ministère de la Santé et des Services sociaux, and to organize follow-up discussions with a view to integrating “equity” into health organizations and health systems. The revised user friendly equity standards from the HPH International: Migration, Equity and Diversity Task Force (MED), once completed, will assist in making this process happen.

Presentations from the above event:

MUHC Health Equity Introduction

Embedding Health Equity in Policy, Practice and Participation - Report

Introduction par Carmen Gonzalez, présidente de l’Alliance des communautés culturelles pour l’égalité dans la santé et les services sociaux – ACCÉSSS.

Présentation par Florente Démosthène, Conseillère-cadre au partenariat et diversité

Barriers Preventing Indigenous and Migrant Children from Accessing Dignified & Equitable Healthcare in the ER by Dr. Samir Shaheen-Hussain

ACCÉSSS La santé mentale des enfants issus de l'immigration Rousseau (YoutTube)

ACCÉSSS - un centre d’expertise en interculturel et en santé (.pdf)

Advances, Challenges for LGBT Families Martens (.ppt)

Montreal City Mission Camp Cosmos (YouTube)

Chez Doris_MUHC 2017 (.ppt)

Diversity to Inclusion Ma,Ramdass (.ppt)

Equity Accreditation and Patient Safety Lamy Vigneault (.pdf)

Equity in health care Montreal Chiarenza (.ppt)

Equity in Norway  STORSTEIN SPILKER (.pdf)

Equity Policy in the Teaching of Medicine Ferdinand (.ppt)

Gender Health Equity Ghosh (.ppt)

Health Equity at SickKids Sappleton (.pdf)

Homelessness Chronic Illness Health Management Sherman (.ppt)

Indigenous Access Routes Forward Saylor (.ppt)

Indigenous Health Determinants (.ppt)

Equity Determinants in Access to Care: Intersections of Gender, Ethnicity, Language and Migration by Bilkis Vissandjée, Ph.D.

Intégrer l'équité en matière de santé Marie Desmeules (.ppt)

Camp Cosmos (YouTube)

MCM Right to authentic participation Alhjooj, Klein (.pdf)

Refugee-access-to-healthcare Morantz (.ppt)

SCIS Access to language and health literacy Serdynska (.ppt

Refer a patient 

Room: BS 1. 2724, Glen site

Office hours:  8:00 - 16:00 

  • For interpretation services, please call (514) 412-4400 ext. 22351  from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. After hours, please call  (514) 412-4400 ext 24499 (Emergency Department)
  • Literature links, community resources, cultural and special days:  514-412-4400 ext. 23005
  • Education, development, consultations and diversity networks:  514-412-4400 ext. 23002