Bridging the gap between health and foreign languages


It can be frustrating asking for medical attention for those who speak a different language in an area that mainly speaks English.

NewsChannel 6’s Devin Johnson sat in a class that trains people to step in when seconds matter in an emergency.

For the next couples days in August, several students at Augusta University Health will be learning different skill sets to help patients who speak a foreign language.

Vivian Rice, the manager of interpreter services for AU Health, says there is a huge need for bilingual interprets in the CSRA.

She says it reduces the miscommunication with patients and doctors. 

“If you are not communicating properly with the limited English patients, you’re not going to have a good outcome,” explained Rice.

To make sure those patients get the right treatment they need; Rice is training a few medical interpreters.

The course is called “Bridging the Gap,” which caters to people are bilingual. 

Beverly Garcia is an ad-hoc interpreter for Rural Health Services in Aiken.

She says she’s taking the class because she remembers as a child the frustrations her parents went through at hospitals due to language barriers. 

“You may not understand all of the directions the health provider may give you,” said Garcia. “So this class is important so that we can have accurate information on both sides.”

Garcia adds cultural differences can also be a factor in a life or death.

Whereas in some cultures, it’s rude to make eye contact or to touch someone without permission.

She says this class will help her not make assumptions when dealing with any patients.

“You have to educate patients,” explained Garcia. “You have to educate other providers about not just people’s cultures beliefs, but where they come from and who they are. It makes a difference when you have all of that together.” 

The ad-hoc interpreter for Rural Health Services says she hasn’t thought about moving to a bigger city to help people out. Right now her focus is on the people right here in the Garden City. 

“Maybe in the future, I will like to do that,” said Garcia. “I think helping right now within the community can make a difference. Because there are not many people around here.” 

The “Bridging the Gap” medical interpreters training will be offered again in January.


Photojournalist: Gary Hipps

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