NIH Clinical Center

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2  Patient recruitment and support
Patient Advisory Group. Fragment, Patient Advisory Group.

Patient Advisory Group
The Patient Advisory Group was established in 1998 when a number of patients were invited to offer their perspectives on the design of the new hospital. At least 20 patients or family members meet quarterly with Dr. Gallin, and the meetings are open to any patients or family members who wish to attend. Efforts are made to represent patients from as many institutes as possible. In FY 2004, the group held several discussions about patient services in the new Clinical Research Center. Many features of the new hospital reflect recommendations patients have made about amenities, signage, security at the dedicated patient entrance, computerized bedside educational resources, business center needs, and patient travel services. Speed bumps in the garage, for example, were eliminated when a cancer patient said they increased nausea in patients undergoing chemotherapy. Flexible showerheads were installed in patient showers in the new hospital to allow patients with intravenous catheters to take showers. The group discussed department- and service-specific functions in the Clinical Center and offered comments on upcoming patient surveys.

Volunteer services
The Clinical Center’s volunteer services program accepts and places volunteers in nearly 20 hospital programs. Retirees, spouses of visiting scientists, students from area high schools and colleges, and other volunteers contribute about 75,000 hours of service a year. For example, a cadre of specially trained volunteers in the “Family Friend” program help provide child care for patients who want to participate in clinical trials but don’t have the resources for child care. In radiology, in physical therapy, in the library, serving coffee or snacks, welcoming visitors — wherever they work, these volunteers provide a valued helping hand to patients and employees throughout the Clinical Center.

Clinacal Center courtyard. Clinacal Center courtyard

Interpreters program
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.

Room service
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.

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