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Health Services Multilingual at University of Iowa Hospitals

Interpretation

Translators and interpreters as well as hospital staff agree that the language services in healthcare have not only expanded access to many non-English speaking Iowans, but also given patients more control of their health.

The University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics has made news recently for the language service provisions offered by the public teaching hospital. Recognizing a need for greater multilingual access to health services, hospital language service providers have sought to improve health care for medical professionals and patients by eliminating language barriers for non-English speakers. The university hospital’s Interpretation and Translation Services currently offers 24-hour interpretation from trained interpreters, with video options and an online service for patients who do not have access to an in-person translator.

“When you have effective communication, you reduce misinterpretations that could lead to a patient taking the wrong medicine, for example,” said Adrian Silva, one of the translators working at the hospital.

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“If they don’t understand something, they could be putting their life at risk. When we have good communication, it helps people have a better outcome, regardless of what’s going on. Just because they don’t speak the language doesn’t mean they need to receive any different care. My mission is to provide the best interpreting possible so that everyone can understand what’s happening to their health.”

The current team can interpret and translate in Swahili, Arabic, Mandarin Chinese, Vietnamese, French, Spanish, and American Sign Language. They can also communicate with people who speak a language other than what the in-person interpreters can speak using CyraCom, a service that offers phone and video interpretations.

“Having translators helps to ease a lot of patient concerns, because they also recognize the language barrier,” said UIHC Pediatric Oncology Nurse Care Coordinator Amber Reiten.

“The education we need to provide is very important to their child. Having in-person translators allows us to see the weight be lifted off the shoulders of our families. Interpreters who remember details are huge when building trust with our families. Once you have that trust established, these families are much more open to asking questions that they may have been scared to ask before.”

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