Interpreters ensure quality hospital care
Apr. 21, 2006
Mari Pressley is director of Interpreter Services at Banner Estrella Medical
Have a question for a medical expert? E-mail questions to bemcpr@bannerhealth
.com and look in future issues of The Southwest Valley Republic for answers.
Question: When I was admitted to the hospital, they suggested I use one of the
hospital's Spanish interpreters, even though I had a family member with me who
spoke Spanish. Why?
Answer: To provide the best quality care, it is important that nurses and
physicians use a professional medical interpreter who has been specially trained
and certified in interpreting medical terminology in a hospital setting. This
ensures accurate communication across cultural differences, allowing the nurse
and physicians to speak without worrying that the patient is getting only half
of the information.
Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 prohibits exclusion from services and
discrimination on grounds of race, color and national origin among others. This
extends to people with non- or limited English proficiency, which is why having
trained medical interpreters at the hospital protects the patient as well as the
health care provider. It is a matter of trust - patients trust that the
caregivers will provide them the best possible care regardless of their race,
color or natural origin.
The use of a professional medical interpreter helps ensure that patients receive
accurate communication and know precisely what each health care provider or
hospital staff member has said. The patient also benefits because the medical
interpreter allows them to speak directly to the health care provider without
difficulty. This relationship provides patient confidentially to honor the
private and personal nature of the interaction between physician and patient and
maintains trust among all parties. In addition, because a family member or
friend may have a bias, having a trained medical interpreter eliminates any bias
or preference that may create conflict of interest when it comes to a patient's
While not all hospitals provide in-person Spanish interpreters, all hospitals
contract for over-the-phone interpreter services. Banner Estrella provides
in-person Spanish interpreters and also contracts for these services to provide
interpretation to patients who speak languages other than Spanish and encourages
them to use these services during their stay, as well.