Posted for a user: Interpreter Trouble in the ED - Would like suggestions!

Tildy

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Title: Interpreter Trouble in the ED - Would like suggestions!

I am an unsupervised evening shift volunteer at a hospital Emergency Department. My job is to stand in the entrance of the ED and assist patients and visitors. What is the most appropriate way for me to handle the following issues?

1. It appears to me that non-English speakers who come to the Emergency Department are either getting ignored or having to wait 15 minutes or more, maybe even indefinitely (at times), for an interpreter. 2. These people are associating me with this lack of service.

What is the best thing that I can do in this situation? Can you think of a way I could solve both problems?

There are more details below if you would like them.

Non-Solutions: I've been told that I cannot ask a bilingual hospital staff member (non-medical interpreter) to intervene in any way; I've been told that I cannot ask a them (bilingual hospital staff) to tell the non-English speaker that a medical interpreter is on the way, or to ask the non-English speaker if their question is about a medical issue or a non-medical issue, or anything else.

More details: Non-English speakers wander around the waiting areas sometimes going from person to person, asking everyone present, something in their non-English language. They know I see them doing this. They come to me looking and sounding desperate. I cannot tell them why I cannot do anything. It just looks like I just don't care. I suspect some non-English speakers will hold this against me, my face being the face of the problem. The same with other volunteers, except my reputation with non-English speakers is important to me for personal reasons which may or may not be true with others.

Complicating Factors: I don't know who the supervisors are, and suspect that I would need to go up a few levels, beyond the shift supervisors who rotate and aren't permanent to any shift, to find someone that can help. (As much as I don't like to say it, I've been warned about another obstacle. I've been told that there's a bossy bullying potentially prejudice anti-Hispanic nurse who would have it in for me if she found out I "went over her head," even though she's not a boss at all. I've been told that she likes to make the rules. I don't think she's the right person to handle this. So, if I go around looking for the right supervisor or the real person in charge, I need to do so carefully, or potentially forfeit my position and LoR, or so I've been warned.)

Possible Solution (not tried yet): I thought about approaching the hospital's diversity committee to see if there's someone there who could anonymously bring up this concern with the right person in the ED. The problem would be that I want to make sure non-English speakers are getting their needs met and are being treated with respect.
 
OP
Tildy

Tildy

12 yrs old, feels like 84
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One user responded (sorry but responses from general SDN users have to come via me or aPD for now):

Anyways, one suggestion is to have something printed and posted stating what the volunteer wants to say, but is not able. When I was an intern in NYC, our hospital had over 90 languages spoken daily. Placards were posted with the most common statements in (literally) more than 20 languages.

That could be a help. It gets posted, and the volunteer can point at it (like the MedicAid signs in the ED, that end with "este hospital participa en el programa de MedicAid").
 

aProgDirector

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As the post above notes, you could suggest (or find a way to anonymously suggest) that they create a sign in the common languages spoken that says "If you do not speak English, please wait here for an interpreter to assist you". This might also allow the person to point to the language in question, so that the correct interpreter can be called.

My advice to you is: 1) try to stay out of this. Although it looks like a great project, you don't know the politics in the ED and the last thing you need is a headache. You can only work on this project if some other person at that institution "runs" it with you and "owns" it. And 2) try to go to someone in the ED with the idea, rather than someone outside the ED. If you go outside the ED, it can be interpreted negatively. If that's not possible, then you absolutely don't want your name associated with the idea.