Medical interpreters provide a voice for our patients

Call the Patient Experience department at 352-353-5084 to request an interpreter.

Imagine entering a hospital, in need of medical attention. You don’t speak English and aren’t familiar with the building, the people and the processes. You feel helpless.

This situation is a reality for thousands of patients who come to UF Health Shands every year. Rising patient volumes have increased our number of Limited English Proficiency, or LEP, patients, heightening the demand for foreign-language interpretation services provided by the UF Health Sebastian   Ferrero Office of Clinical Quality and Patient Safety’s Patient Experience department.

The department’s medical interpreters give our Spanish-speaking patients a voice. They interpret the information communicated between inpatients and their care team.

“The patients trust us because we understand them; we speak their language and know their culture,” said Charisa DeMott, medical interpreter. “They open up to us because they feel comfortable.”

Creating a bond with patients is essential — medical interpreters translate everything that is said and go anywhere communication is needed. Sometimes they’re in the operating room when a woman is receiving a cesarean section. Or, they may have to help break the news and bring comfort to a patient who has an incurable condition.

“You share very intimate, personal moments with patients and their families,” said Roxana Urrutia, medical interpreter. “We share the sadness and anguish, and also those joyful moments when a baby is born or a person can hear for the first time — those seconds make all the others worth it.”

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(From left) Roxana Urrutia, Raquel Bourget-Gras and Charisa DeMott are medical interpreters for the Patient Experience department.

The team’s three full-time medical interpreters undergo extensive training to become qualified to translate in a hospital setting. They learn the interpreter code of ethics, study medical terminology and test their cultural knowledge of Spanish- speaking countries.

“The team truly makes a difference for our hospitals,”
said Anne Meiring, senior quality improvement specialist. “The in-person relationships they build with our patients decrease the chance of adverse events due to miscommunication and significantly improve quality of care.”

The team assisted with more than 6,000 patient encounters last year. The group also provides translation services for written materials such as patient education packets, discharge instructions or consent forms.

Spanish medical interpreters are available 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday-Friday to assist patients and their families free of charge. CyraCom interpreter phones can be used when medical interpreters are unavailable and for patients who speak languages other than Spanish. The 24-7 phone system provides immediate access to interpretation in 200 languages.

“This team is at the forefront of ensuring safe and effective care,” said Christine Cassisi, Patient Experience director. “They accommodate a wide variety of levels of health literacy and help us deliver a great patient experience for our patients with LEP through their supportive, caring approach.”

Call the Patient Experience department at 352-353-5084 to request an interpreter.