Hospitals nationwide seeing increased demand for interpreters; Michiana hospitals prepared

NOW: Hospitals nationwide seeing increased demand for interpreters; Michiana hospitals prepared

SOUTH BEND, Ind. --- Imagine going to a hospital, you need help getting treated for the coronavirus, but you don’t speak English and you’re put in isolation, away from your family.

That’s a reality for thousands of non-English speaking COVID-19 patients across the country.

According to the American Translators Association, there is an increased need for interpreters due to the coronavirus outbreak.

“It puts the patient at a higher risk,” Elena Langdon said, who sits on the ATA Board of Directors. “If you don’t have the family member there for support and then often you don’t have an interpreter then you don’t have anything. So I think patients are even more isolated because of the virus.”

Because of the increased need, Langdon says more and more hospitals are turning to video and phone interpretation services. In Michiana, Spectrum Lakeland and Goshen Health hospitals are both utilizing video and phone interpretation services.

“I know that several of the companies that do provide [video interpretation services] have seen a spike and they are putting out a call for more interpreters especially in the rare languages,” Langdon said. “They’re particularly hard to find and those are the cases where not having that family member as a stop-gap becomes a real problem.”

It’s not typically recommended that family members interpret in hospitals or other medical facilities to ensure accuracy but in a pinch, it’s clear how isolating coronavirus patients who don’t speak English can become challenging.

Local area hospital officials say they are not seeing an increased demand for interpreters yet, but they are prepared should that happen. 

Langdon says being prepared is what’s most important for non-English speaking patients to receive the proper care. Whether the services are provided in person, via phone or video, what matters most is that the service is available to those put in isolation, away from their families, who need it. 

The biggest issue is with hospitals that don’t have interpretation plans in place. 

“It has a real detrimental effect on care. Without being able to communicate fully with the patient in their language, you can’t hear what the patient is saying,  the patient doesn’t feel heard, and then the patient doesn’t get all the information that’s so important about the virus,” Langdon said. 

If you or someone you love is admitted to the hospital for the coronavirus and you need an interpreter, officials at any local hospital can help. Just let them know you need it.

If you are proficient in multiple languages, the ATA encourages you to look into how you might be able to help patients in need through interpretation services. For more information on how to get certified, visit the ATA’s website. 

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