A photo of the Bon Secours language services team in Richmond, VA.

Language Services Team Gives Patients Equal Access to Communication and Care

Jun 24 2020

Patients rely on hospitals during their greatest time of need. Imagine being a patient, but not being able to communicate symptoms or other needs because of a communication barrier.

That’s where our language services team members step in. Their job is to help patients with limited English proficiency or those who are deaf or hard of hearing receive equitable access to care and communication.

In Richmond, VA this team of “quiet but mighty heroes” supports our frontline staff and patients to remove language barriers that exist between them. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, their work has been amplified. Not only have they moved to remote operation, they are also serving even more patients across the ministry than before.

“Our team now provides patients and families, many who are immigrants from very vulnerable communities, with a direct access phone number to the team,” says Patty Gavilan, RN, language services manager (pictured above far left). “We are coordinating communication between families of very critical patients and the staff caring for them. This way they can reach the clinical staff caring for their loved one without delay and in a more efficient and convenient way for our clinical staff.”

Current visitor precautions have made it even more challenging for families who speak another language, as sometimes they can’t be at the hospital with their loved one. The direct access they now have to our language services team helps connect them with caregivers faster. This has been especially helpful for the families of patients on ventilators who cannot speak with them directly about their treatment.

Patti continues, “Throughout our response to COVID-19, when a patient was really ill, critical, fighting for their life, we found families were having a hard time connecting with the hospitals and getting information. We found if the family calls us, we can call into the unit and if it is an appropriate time for the nurse, we do a three-way call or schedule another time to talk. That way family members don’t have to struggle with a language barrier.”

In addition to providing interpretation services, this team has been working behind the scenes to coordinate and donate mask-making supplies. Together, they have donated more than 200 masks to the Sacred Heart Center, a Bon Secours partner that connects Latino families with tools to thrive and flourish. The language services team often works closely with the center to help patients receive groceries, emergency rent assistance and other services.

The team also recently delivered masks, groceries and cleaning products to a discharged COVID-19 patient whom they knew may need some assistance.

“We are proud of the mission and work of our ministry. This Bon Secours team continues working passionately to address social determinants of health in a very vulnerable community during this pandemic,” Patty says.

Thank you to our language services team members who help ensure every one of our patients has equal access to communication and care.

Learn more about the health care services offered at Bon Secours.

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