St. Joseph Hospital, a member of Covenant Health, offers patients a wide array of interpreter services. They range from interpreting 240 different languages, including American Sign Language (ASL), to delivering auxiliary aids to meet the needs of patients who are deaf, hard of hearing, blind/low vision or who have a speech disability.
Rosemary Ford is Covenant Health’s System Director of Interpreter Services. She oversees language access to Limited English Proficient (LEP) patients and others in need of support, to ensure effective communication between patient and provider during a healthcare experience.
“There are federal and state regulations that require hospitals to provide interpreter services to their patients. However, we also do it simply because it’s the right thing to do,” shares Ford. “If a provider can’t clearly communicate with a patient, how can they effectively treat them? Our services mean the world to people because they offer access and support.”
St. Joe’s team of interpreters manages approximately 350 scheduled encounters each month. This number doesn’t include unscheduled encounters, which often occur in the emergency department and urgent care locations. The local team includes full-time and per diem staff – supported by agency staff and a language service vendor – all of whom may deliver services in person, by phone or via video.
The Greater Nashua area requires health care interpreters who speak Spanish, Portuguese and Mandarin. In fact, in 2019, St. Joe’s team provided interpreter services in 58 languages, including American Sign Language, which was an increase over the 34 languages they supported in 2018. “Each year I see an increase in the need for interpreter services, which is due in part to refugee settlement in New Hampshire and nearby Massachusetts,” Ford adds.
According to the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, studies show that LEP patients often experience higher rates of misdiagnosis, medication misuse, re-admission and other medical complications due to cultural and linguistic barriers. It’s essential that interpreters be part of the medical team to ensure a patient receives appropriate and safe care.
“I’m deeply proud of the robust services we offer. Building strong relationships and connecting with the community are paramount to what we do. We’re constantly working to ensure that access to health care is equitable for minority populations. As a Catholic health ministry, our mission is to provide healing and care for the whole person in service to ALL in our communities – and we take that mission to heart,” Ford says.
St. Joseph Hospital in Nashua is a Covenant Health member.