Hospitals working to bridge gap between language barriers - WAFF-TV: News, Weather and Sports for Huntsville, AL

Hospitals working to bridge gap between language barriers

(Source: Raycom Media) (Source: Raycom Media)

Going to an emergency room can be a traumatic experience for some people, especially when they do not speak the local language.

Chief Nursing Officer Jan Lenz for Athens-Limestone Hospital said when it comes to communication, they take advantage of every option.   

"Our primary service started off with our in-house interpreter," said Lenz. "Her name is Alma Lopez and she is a certified medical interpreter."

They also have outside assistance with bills and any type of paperwork.  

"We do have another company that does all of our written services.  And so we have documents available in Spanish," said Lenz

And some help is as close as the phone.   "But we have worldwide interpreters which is a certified phone service, that's available 24 - 7," added Lenz.

The tools for trying to bridge that language barrier are constantly improving and Lenz said they can be very simple or they can be very high tech.  

"Available are some language cards. They have pictures on them so people could point and say, 'This is where I hurt. This is how much I hurt.'  So those language cards are very helpful. That's especially true on our ambulance service so they have those available on the truck." said Lenz.

There are many languages which can be accommodated thanks to several tools.  

"This month we'll begin using another service from the Language Access Network," added Lenz.

In this case, the language doesn't have to involve speech. The primary focus is on adding a video service for their deaf population.

By starting with one tool and moving to another, they are taking advantage of every option to make sure patients are getting the right care and families are able to understand everything.

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