Interpreters at St. Luke's help patients overcome language barriers

Posted at 5:28 PM, Jan 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-01-18 19:28:31-05

As the Treasure Valley grows, so does the need for one job in particular — interpreters.

Nationally, translation and interpretation was named a “top emerging career” for 2017, and that’s no surprise to St. Luke’s Hospital.

For Maria Gutierrez, her appointments at St. Luke’s Hospital in Nampa always include a special guest. Today, it’s Monica. 

“I can communicate my needs whenever I come to St. Luke’s,” Gutierrez said. 

Monica is one of 10 staff members at St. Luke’s who serve as interpreters. They attend appointments and make sure nothing gets lost in translation.

“I used to get frustrated because I couldn’t communicate with my doctors,” Gutierrez said. 

It’s a growing service that’s in high demand.

On average, interpreters in St. Luke’s’ West Region — from Mountain Home to Baker City, Oregon — assist with about 190 appointments per day. That figure doesn’t count ER visits or walk-in appointments.

“We have eight Spanish interpreters, one Russian and one sign language and a couple of schedulers to help us schedule appointments for the whole west region,” said Isbelia Burnham, Manager of Cultural Language Services at St. Luke’s. 

St. Luke’s works with independent contractors when other language interpreters are needed.

For providers, having interpreters in the room ensures patients are in control of their health care.

“Without that, they may be unsure what to do and their outcomes may not be quite as good. Also, I notice in therapy, it ’s important to build a report and with the interpreters, it seems to help put patients at ease,” said Randy Marshall, Certified Hand Therapist at St. Luke’s.

From now until the end of this year, interpreters at St. Luke’s will serve about 80 different languages. 

Interpreters are provided at no charge to folks who need a translator. 

The top languages served daily at St. Luke’s include Spanish, Arabic, Bosnian, Russian, Swahili and American Sign Language.