NMC Commentary

Is NMC Prepared to Overcome Communication and Language Barriers?

Yes.  In an effort to provide exceptional care for patients for whom English is not their first language or who have a hearing impairment, NMC uses a multi-resource approach to balance effectiveness, timeliness, efficiency, and patient preference.  By having a range of options, we are better positioned to meet the needs of our patients in a manner which works for them.

NMC’s patient registration stations, our clinical and service departments, and our employed physician practices have ready access to innovative online tablet-based technology that is familiar to and effective for many of our patients who speak a language other than English or who have a hearing impairment.  Spanish is the most requested focus of interpretation services here at NMC, followed by French and American Sign Language.  The online system is particularly helpful when a less familiar language is necessary, giving us the necessary access to better serve a broad diversity of patients.

While the technology solution is rapid and effective in most instances, it is not a perfect solution in all instances and there are times when a certified medical interpreter is a better answer.  NMC’s Care Management team maintains a list of available certified medical interpreters who we are able to call when needed.  The certification in medical interpretation is very important, given the nuances of wording in many patient-provider communications.  Medical terminology can be complex and the details included in a patient’s description of symptoms, the provider’s questions or instructions, and the patient’s questions and replies are critically important to effective communication.

Our resources include collaboration with the Vermont Center for Independent Living, which describes itself as “a nonprofit organization directed and staffed by individuals with disabilities, works to promote the dignity, independence and civil rights of Vermonters with disabilities.”  The Vermont Interpreter Referral Service is one of their offerings and NMC makes use of this service, which provides access to both American Sign Language/spoken English interpreter referral. While we are familiar with their services and resources, other businesses in the community may not be as familiar, so I would like to share some of the information from their website, www.virs.org.  “VIRS is a non-profit organization that provides statewide sign language interpreter referral services for settings such as medical, legal, mental health, employment, educational, civil and recreational; anything in which a Deaf or Hard of Hearing person needs to communicate with someone who doesn’t know sign language. If you are a business or organization that needs to find an interpreter, please call us at 802-254-3920 or email us at [email protected].”

We deeply appreciate having access to these resources which help us communicate with our patients in ways which work for them and that facilitate exceptional care.  We thank our patients and their loved ones who work with us to overcome communication barriers together.  We appreciate those who are able to let us know of needs in advance of scheduled visits so arrangements can be made prior to the patient’s arrival.  At the same time, we recognize the emergent and unexpected instances that bring some of our patients to our door and we have the processes in place to meet their needs in as timely a manner as possible.  If you or your family has any concerns with accessing services of Northwestern Medical Center, please let me know right away.  We want to remove any barriers to access to care to the best of our ability.  We are committed to providing exceptional care for all our patients and thank you for entrusting your care to us.

— Jill Berry Bowen, NMC’s Chief Executive Officer