Interpreters ensure quality hospital care
Arizona Republic
Apr. 21, 2006

Mari Pressley is director of Interpreter Services at Banner Estrella Medical Center.

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 care.

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.