Bridging the language divide

“My chest hurts!” “Nurse, do you have anything for the pain?” “Doctor, my blood sugar is too high.” “My baby has a high fever!”

Medical professionals are accustomed to responding to cries for help — unless those cries are spoken in Chaldean, Arabic, Spanish, Russian, Mandarin, Telugu or dozens of other languages spoken in Michigan. Doctors and nurses must effectively be able to communicate with their patients. Miscommunication means longer hospital stays, increased readmissions, additional tests, or even worse, misdiagnosis.

“That’s where a language service comes to the rescue,” says Jinny Bromberg, MCACHE member and president, Bromberg & Associates, a Michigan-based language service provider.

Jinny, who is a professional interpreter and founder of the company, leads a diverse team of linguistics professionals who are equally passionate about bridging the gap between cultures and ensuring seamless communication.

According to the Office of Civil Rights Policy Guidance, hospitals have an obligation to ensure language access for their limited English proficiency patients. It is important for health care providers to be aware of their responsibilities to ensure OCR compliance.

“While we work with many types of clients, health care is our most important core segment,” says Jinny. “It may be that health is important to everyone regardless of their native language, or we see what happens when professional language services are not provided.”

Jinny’s team also provides translation reviews of medical records, which often leads to re-translating the entire document. Mistranslation occurs when clients have attempted to use web-based translation programs and amateur interpretation, sometimes provided by relatives or well-meaning bilingual medical staff. Mistranslated or misinterpreted medical information can result in horrific injury or death.

“In a world as diverse as ours, it is unacceptable for people to suffer or even die because of language barriers,” says Jinny. “We give priority to helping deliver the best quality care to patients, mitigate risks for hospitals and help health care organizations meet Joint Commission requirements.”

The article was first published on The Midwest Chapter of the American College of Health Care Executives website