The number of Clinical Center patients who speak Spanish or languages other than English has been steadily increasing, says José Luis Rosado-Santiago, one of two full-time Spanish interpreters at the Clinical Center. The other is María Radulovic. Rosado-Santiago and Radulovic are assisted at times by student interns from the Hispanic Association of Colleges and by volunteers from inside and outside of the Clinical Center.
Spanish-speaking patients account for 83% of all non-English speaking patients. There are others, including Haitian Creole, Italian, Greek, French, Mandarin, and Arabic, but none amount to 1%. We need to accommodate people who feel more comfortable speaking another language, says Rosado-Santiago. “It’s not that they can’t speak English,” says Rosado-Santiago. “Rather, it’s that we don’t speak their language. When you have what is essentially an international research center and we’re recruiting volunteers from all over the world for various medical studies, we have to accommodate their language needs.”
Two full-time multilingual interpreter positions were created two years ago, and the unit has developed both in-service training (to make staff more aware of language issues) and Spanish-language print materials explaining various services available to patients. One brochure tells patients about their right to an interpreter, explains how to request one, and includes an “I Speak…” card that can be used to identify the patient’s language and inform the staff that this person is requesting an interpreter.
A Spanish-language video, “Bienvenidos!,” adds closed captions for the hard of hearing. Closed captioning may later be made available in other languages.
A training video in English, “The Many Languages of the Clinical Center,” informs staff how best to use an interpreter, how to structure their conversations, and what they can or cannot expect from interpreters. “While some are very experienced and savvy in working with foreign patients, others weren’t as comfortable,” says Rosado-Santiago. Some of the staff didn’t know how to ask for an interpreter, or didn’t know there was such a program. Understanding how to communicate with a patient through an interpreter is central to effective research.
This year the Nutrition Department improved the room service program it launched in 2002. Under the improved system, a new computer system makes the room service program available to most Clinical Center patients, including those on modified or restricted diets. The food is delivered within 45 minutes.