Found in translation

CNJ Staff Photo: Liliana Castillo Betty Pullings, right, interprets questions from her patient Siu Davalos to Dr. Hany Elbeshbeshy at Plains Regional Medical Center. Pullings says she interprets for an average of 10 patients in a week in departments all over the hospital.

By Liliana Castillo: CNJ Staff Writer

Betty Pullings, a registered nurse at Plains Regional Medical Center, not only takes care of her patients, but also goes throughout the hospital interpreting doctor’s orders and test results from English to Spanish.

Pullings is one of 10 certified interpreters at the hospital. She became certified through a class called Bridging the Gap, sponsored by Presbyterian Healthcare Services and its Cross Cultural Health Care program based in Albuquerque. Even though Pullings has spoken fluent Spanish her entire life, becoming an interpreter was different.

“I wanted to know why I had to take the class if I already speak Spanish,” Pullings said. “As a nurse, I am an advocate for the patient, a care giver. As an interpreter, I’m just there to bring the conversation together.”

Pullings said the main difference between being a care giver, and being an interpreter is what goes into the conversation for a care giver.

“I have to say exactly what the doctor says and exactly what the patient says,” Pullings said.

Lorena Navedo-Fabert, the translation and cultural competency coordinator for the Cross Cultural Health Care program, said the class covers different aspects of being an interpreter that may not come naturally, such as where an interpreter should stand and dealing with different dialects.

“It’s really about giving them the skills so they feel comfortable giving the interpretation,” Navedo-Fabert said.

According to Presbyterian, about 4 percent of patients indicate a language of preference other than English during admittance. Bridging the Gap began in 2006 as a response to 14 standards released by the Department of Health and Human Services in 2000. Several of the standards focused on language barriers creating health care disparities, Navedo-Faber said.

She went on to describe that an interpreter should make sure not to stand between the patient and provider.

“An interpreter should be an active part of the communication,” she said. “But the focus should stay on (the patient), not on the interpreter.”

The class also covers ethics, medical terminology and interpretation skills.

But for Pullings, it’s all about the patients.

“It’s scary to come to a hospital anyway,” Pullings said. “Especially if you can’t understand what they are saying. Patients are very appreciative of my help. If I feel appreciated, I can go that extra mile. These people need it and I’m happy to do it.”