MCG trains medical interpreters

By: Stephanie Baker Email
By: Stephanie Baker Email

April 20, 2007

AUGUSTA, Ga.---When you go to the doctor, communication is important. That's why MCG Health System is training medical interpreters.

It's a way to help the growing number of people in our area who speak limited English.

Karen Smith knows what it's like to speak a different language than her doctor. That's why the Guatemala native wants to help others.

"It can be frustrating," she said. "You want to say things and don't know how. And you don't always know how to express yourself."

Students say the example scenarios they're running through are getting them ready to help the roughly five percent of the local population that speaks limited English.

"Imagine yourself in a different country, you get hurt, you don't speak the language, and all you know is you're scared," said prospective interpreter Kathleen Muller.

Medical interpreters are necessary because they help doctors understand what the patient needs.

Interpretes son necessarios porque ellos ayudan a los doctores a entender las necesidades de los pacientes.

The program's director, Vivian Rice, says translations help doctors understand the patients condition, what medications they need, and any possible problems they may have.

"When you're talking about health, life and death situations, it's very important you understand 100 percent what is said to you," Rice said.

She says there are also cultural issues.

In one example, the interpreter practiced telling a woman that even though her child's condition could be fatal in her country, it's not that severe here.

The class also teaches students to relay exact messages and how to break down complex terms so the patients can understand them.

MCG holds the 40-hour class every year.

Right now, they have four interpreters and some doctors who also volunteer.

But she says that number could rise as the Medical College and Fort Gordon continue to bring in people from other countries.

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