Here’s How to Help Patients with Limited English Proficiency
William Osler, considered the father of modern medicine, famously advised students: “Just listen to your patients; they are telling you the diagnosis.”
However, when faced with a language barrier, doctors and patients both lose.
At Emory Volunteer Medical Interpretation Services (VMIS), we are committed to correcting the healthcare disparities experienced by limited English proficiency (LEP) patients.
The solution is simple: trained interpreters.
With your help, we can break the language barrier between the healthcare provider and the patients seeking care in clinics who have limited access to interpreters. In this way, they receive the healthcare, and dignity they deserve. While Title VI of the Civil Rights Act mandates that interpreter services be provided for patients with limited English proficiency who need this service, small safety net clinics and free health fairs often struggle to afford interpreters.
The ability to actively listen to and communicate with a patient conveys respect for their self-knowledge and builds trust. It allows a physician to assume the role of the trusted intermediary who not only provides relevant medical knowledge but also translates it into options in line with a patient’s values and priorities.
VMIS is a student-run organization on campus that aims to select and train bilingual students to become qualified medical interpreters. We currently work with ALTA language services, which provides the course and qualification program for our student interpreters.
Students also contribute their own money, in addition to the long hours to pass the course and the exams so they can gain their certificate as qualified medical interpreters. Afterwards, our interpreters volunteer weekly at clinics at Good Samaritan Health Center in downtown Atlanta.
Currently, we are working with Spanish and Portuguese interpreters, but we would love to expand to more languages.
Without interpreters, the level of care a patient can receive is very reduced since it becomes incredibly complicated to understand and help the patient. We believe our student interpreters hold the power to connect patient and physician, even with the existing language barrier.
VMIS is seeking $9,750 so we can train 15 volunteer interpreters in the next year. The tuition for each student to receive certification is $650.
Fifteen new qualified medical interpreters will greatly increase our bandwidth and will allow us to meet the growing need for underprivileged patients in the greater Atlanta community. Furthermore, this guarantees that we can continue our work for years to come, and provide a much-needed service in the under-served communities of Atlanta.
At VMIS, we understand how diverse the Emory community is, and offering an opportunity like this that may not be financially accessible to a significant amount of students is not in line with our mission. We would like to continue to subsidize a large portion of the course, ideally much more than we were previously able to so that students with a passion to help others and knowledge of other languages can make a lasting impact in their community.