Platte Valley offers on-site Spanish interpreter services and real-time access to interpreters of 18 other languages. This service is an essential component of our commitment to providing all patients with the highest-quality care. Further, offering an interpreter service for patients who don’t speak English is the law.
Yet there is a patient group that falls between the cracks, a group that could benefit from an interpreter but often goes unrecognized as a group in need: Limited English Proficient patients, known as LEP patients, who can converse in English yet don’t fully understand it.
The analogy I use to help providers understand this situation is this: Imagine you need to read a document written in legalese. It can be anything, from your mortgage agreement to your cell phone contract. Would you understand, absorb and remember all of that information it in its entirety? Probably not. You likely would need to reread parts, save it for later when you have more time and focus, or possibly even ask for clarification on the fine print.
For patients, particularly for those whose preferred language is not English, a conversation with their physician is similar. It’s important to recognize that just because a patient can answer your questions does not mean that patient can understand you.
Here’s what you can do: At Platte Valley, we ask patients about their language preference during the Admissions process. If you notice one of your patients has listed any language other than English as his/her preferred language, we encourage you or a member of the care team to offer our free interpreter services. You also should offer these services if you notice a patient speaking English with you, yet another language with family or loved ones.
Physicians then need to document in the LEP patient’s chart that interpreter services have been offered and received, or declined.
There are a number of reasons why a patient who could benefit from an interpreter might refuse the assistance. Bilingual patients often admit to not asking for an interpreter because they felt embarrassed or shy, or they thought they understood the instructions until something went wrong. They also claim to avoid asking questions because they fear their English is not ‘good enough’ and instead rely on the supplemental documents written in their preferred language.
In the best interest of optimal care and a superior patient experience, we should be friendly and encouraging as we offer interpreter services to all of our LEP patients.
Available interpreter services at Platte Valley:
- Spanish interpreter available business hours Monday through Friday at 303-498-1905. I’m also available through the paging system on The Landing.
- Telephone interpreters through Certified Languages International at 1-888-304-0761.
- Video interpreters through iPad units available in all patient-care areas. This resource offers 19 languages.
Thank you for your commitment to offering this free service to patients who need it. If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to contact me at 303-498-1905 or email me at Lidia.Puga@sclhealth.org.
Written by Lidia Puga, Interpreter and Translator at Platte Valley Medical Center