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Archive September 2019 XX, No. 9

Ideas That Work: A Better Understanding

Better Serving Spanish-Speaking Patients

Mountain Empire Surgery Center
TALE OF 2 LANGUAGES English and Spanish versions of the Mountain Empire Surgery Center's Patient's Rights document.

At our ASC, 15% to 20% of our patients speak Spanish as their primary language. For many years, we've partnered with East Tennessee State University's (ETSU) Language and Culture Resource Center (LCRC), just a few miles away, to arrange as far in advance as we could for interpreters to be here for our Latino patients when they come in. But we felt we should do more, so we asked LCRC to translate all of the papers a patient needs to sign or take home as well. We had 12 sheets in all, and they charged us about $60. It took them about 3 weeks to finish the work. They also helped us put Spanish-language content on our website. To confirm the translations were accurate, we had one of our Latino doctors look them over — it's definitely important to have a second pair of eyes make sure everything reads precisely as it should, especially for healthcare documents. Many ASCs use commercial translation services to do this work, but we felt partnering with ETSU in our own community was the right way to go.

Mountain Empire Surgery Center
FOUND IN TRANSLATION Lisa Rickman, RN, holds one of numerous patient forms and documents that a local university translated into Spanish.

Now when a Spanish-speaking patient comes in, the translator tells the patient, "These are your papers to read, the consent form you need to read and sign, here are papers about hand hygiene, infection control, DVT, blood clots" and so on. We assemble a packet for them to take home, and the translator makes sure they understand they need to read all of that. It's double the paperwork for us — the Spanish forms and the English translation for our staff — but that's OK. The main thing is, it barely cost us a thing to make 1 in 5 of our patients feel much less confused, overwhelmed or scared about their upcoming surgical experience. And that's worth it, every time.

Lisa Rickman, RN
Mountain Empire Surgery Center
Johnson City, Tenn.

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