Case Management

Interpreters help overcome linguistic and cultural barriers

Case Management Monthly, April 1, 2010

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Facilities that do not have interpreters on staff should at the very least have access to a strong telephone interpreter service, says Barbara Bogomolov, RN, MS, BSN, manager of refugee health and interpreter services at Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis.

Facilities should never rely on a patient’s family members or a bilingual staff member in another department to provide interpretive services. “There are issues of bias, performance, patient safety, and confidentiality,” she says.

The National Standards on Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) do not allow a patient’s family members to interpret medical instructions unless the patient specifically requests that they be allowed to do so. For more information on the CLAS standards, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services’ Web site at http://hcpro.com/url/1230.

Facilities can also take advantage of interpreters as a source of cultural information.

“It’s not all about language. We are used to Western-educated patients understanding their rights and obligations to make choices for themselves, but many [patients] come from cultures where that is not normal or appropriate,” Bogomolov says.

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