Jan 24 2005

More Hispanic Patients Means High Demand for Hospital Interpreters

Published by at January 24, 2005 9:40 pm under Interpretation

OU Medical Center Staff Stepping Up Training, Recruitment Of Interpreters

The number of Hispanic patients at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center is increasing, and that has led to a rise in Spanish language translation services.

The number of Hispanic patients increased 12 percent between 2002 and 2003, said hospital spokesman Allen Poston. He said 2004 figures are not yet available.

Meanwhile, patients needing translation services increased almost 15 percent last year. The medical center averaged 985 interpretations a month in 2004 compared with 842 a month the year before, according to data compiled by translation coordinator Jorge Cure.

Cure said it is difficult to tell if the increase reflects a rise in the medical center’s Spanish-speaking patient load or the availability of more translators.

Hospitals receiving federal funds are required to provide free interpreters to all patients who need them, but there is no requirement for special training.

Many hospitals rely on in-house language banks that might include Spanish-speaking housekeepers or cafeteria workers. Others contract with outside businesses for translation services in person or by telephone.

Cure is trying to raise the bar at the OU Medical Center, where interpreter applicants must be fully bilingual with some knowledge of medical terminology. Those hired then go through a week of training to learn interpretation protocol, hospital policy and more medical terminology.

At the end of the training, they must pass written and oral examinations with scores of 90 percent.

Cure said he hopes the state Health Department will adopt a program like his to certify trained medical interpreters.

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