New AU program bridges gap between doctors, patients

Published: May. 16, 2022 at 7:20 PM EDT
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AUGUSTA, Ga. (WRDW/WAGT) - In times of emergency or when you’re in pain, the one person you want to be able to communicate with is your doctor.

Now imagine you don’t speak the same language as the person trying to give you potentially urgent care.

We took a look at a new program at Augusta University making sure all patients are heard and understood.

Trying to explain how you feel to a doctor can be difficult. We even use a scale of 1 to 10 to make it easier.

“Sometimes we get a little bit more complicated of a case from the cancer center, or someone comes in from the trauma of an accident to the hospital, and you can tell that they’re scared that they don’t know how they’re going to communicate,” said Belkas Acra, medical interpreter.

It’s a situation that’s not unfamiliar to Acra. When she was younger, her little sister got very sick, and her mother was unable to communicate with the doctors. She didn’t know it at the time but becoming her mother’s interpreter inspired her career.

“It’s so rewarding to know that someone will be like ‘thank you so much for helping me communicate.’ They’re so appreciative of our services. I’ve even been told before, ‘I’ve never seen this before in other hospitals. I would always keep coming here just because I feel so comfortable being able to express myself,” she said

AU’s ‘Bridging the Gap’ program” is the only medical interpreter program in the region. It’s nationally recognized, and the certification can be used anywhere.

If you are bilingual and are interested, the classes start on May 30. You have until May 20 to sign up and register. It’ll cost you $800, which includes your textbook and exam prices. You have to pass the final exam to get your certification.

Acra says it’s so important, especially as our population continues to become more diverse.

“We have a need here, and our Hispanic community keeps growing,” she said.

She says Bridging the Gap classes teach you all the terminology and information you need to use your voice for good.

“You can use that as a tool that you grew up with and provide such an amazing thing for patients who appreciate it so much,” she said.

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