Hospital interpreters grant peace of mind

CNJ staff photo: Emily Crowe Registered nurse Chris Garcia, standing center, works with interpreters Ted Anaya and Yvonna Gonzalez to help Celina Chavez, a patient at Plains Regional Medical Center.

CNJ staff photo: Emily Crowe
Registered nurse Chris Garcia, standing center, works with interpreters Ted Anaya and Yvonna Gonzalez to help Celina Chavez, a patient at Plains Regional Medical Center.

By Emily Crowe
CNJ staff writer
ecrowe@cnjonline.com

Patient comfort is important when it comes to good medical care, and Noemi Flores has made a name for herself among Hispanic patients at Plains Regional Medical Center.

As a volunteer interpreter at the hospital, Flores helps give patients who are not fluent in English a voice and some peace of mind.

“I use it a lot where I’m working because I do mammography,” she said. “A lot of the ladies come in, Hispanic ladies who don’t know much English, and they feel more comfortable knowing that I can explain what they’re having done, especially if it’s their first time with something so sensitive.”

Due to strict patient privacy laws, translators are generally always hospital employees, and many of them are able to provide services for patients within their respective departments.

The hospital also has computer software that allows hospital employees to call a live translator, but Ted Anaya, an interpreter and case manager, believes the translator’s personal touch is important.

“Having the human capacity makes a big difference for the patient,” he said.

“We kind of have to put ourselves in their situation if we were ever in an area where we had no one to help us,” said Yvonne Gonzalez, a senior emergency room secretary and volunteer translator. “We would just be hopeful there would be somebody to help us.”

According to Elaine Adams, nursing administrative secretary and coordinator for the translation program, many patients are unaware of the services the translators offer.

“A lot of people don’t know that service is available and a lot of people don’t know they do this voluntarily,” she said. “They’re not compensated for it in any way, other than the gratitude and the feel-good for themselves.”

In celebration of International Translation Day Monday, the hospital held a luncheon to honor its 22 volunteers.

“You get known,” said Flores. “The ladies that come in from the health office, they already know to call me and ask for me.”

“You should see from when I started to do mammography to now, how many more Hispanic ladies are coming in to get their mammograms because they know that I’m there and I can talk to them and let them know what’s going on.”