Medical interpreters break language barriers at Children’s Hospital

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – There’s one question a number of hospitals are adding to their list when checking in patients: what language do you want to speak for health care?

East Tennessee Children’s Hospital has a staff of nationally certified and trained medical interpreters to help break any kind of language barriers families may have. The service is free and priceless to a number of East Tennessee families.

In a room of machines and medicine, it can be hard understanding what’s happening, no matter how old.

“Things are going to be okay,” said mom Sara Guillen.

Her daughter Roselynn, age one, came to ETCH with a serious stomach bug. English isn’t Guillen’s first language, so she had a Spanish-speaking interpreter there to make sure everything was clear.

“It’s really hard. You’re trying to put those words into your mind, trying to put it into a sentence,” added Guillen.

Spanish is the most requested language at ETCH. There are seven full-time and two part-time interpreters on staff at the hospital. In-person services are available 24 hours a day, five days a week, although either by phone or video families can communicate with doctors in 26 different languages, everything from Arabic to Vietnamese to Romanian and many more.

“It’s a tremendous responsibility that we take very seriously,” said senior interpreter Kerri Banks.

The medical interpreters can be on any floor and help give any kind of diagnosis, instructions, along with translating paperwork. Everything is made clear to families so that there’s no room for uncertainty or doubt.

“We’re able to sort of take their care to a deeper level than just words that are being said,” added Banks.

The interpreters stand by a family’s side when there are highs and lows.

“As a parent myself, you can’t help but connect and empathize with parents,” said Banks.

“Being here with a sick baby, you have so much stress,” added Guillen.

Banks says interpreters build relationships with families on a foundation of trust.

“It’s good to feel like you helped a family,” Banks said.

They do it so they can watch little ones go home.

“You feel like so much relief,” said Guillen.

To see more of the languages available at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, click here.

ETCH says in the last year more than 16,000 appointments were made for in-person translations, more than 3,000 over the phone, and 333 by video. Children’s Hospital hired its first staff interpreter in 2006. By 2007, they added another to the group and the program continues to grow.

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