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Sign of the Times- Deaf Services: August 20, 2013

When he’s on the job, Jody Belcher doesn’t speak his mind. As a certified interpreter he is the bridge between deaf patients and their health care providers; part of a free service offered by Lee Memorial Health System.

“It sets the patient at ease and it sets the patient care provider at ease because the Lee Memorial patient care team really wants to make sure the patient leaves fully understanding their care,” says Yemisis Oloruntola- Coates, supervisor of diversity and language services with Lee Memorial Health System.

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires hospitals to provide effective communication for patients, family members, and hospital visitors who are deaf or hard of hearing. It applies to all settings and services. This can be accomplished through computer assistance, but real-time interpreters bring an added dimension.

“Just imagine you and I, when we walk into a hospital visit we get to talk to our physician we get to talk to our nurse.  We’re not talking to a machine, so it creates an environment that makes the patient feel comfortable. And there’s nuances and that can be picked up when someone is there live,” says Oloruntola- Coates.

Being at a hospital can be an emotional situation, even if the person who is hearing impaired has family with them who are able to communicate, the interpreter still brings value.

“Communicating to your health care provider is a different type of conversation than having a one-on-one conversation at home. It requires a lot more terminology people are not used to using every day,” says Oloruntola- Coates.

Services may be arranged in advance but hospitals are prepared for emergency visits.

“Typically they come to the hospitals unplanned and then the patient care team knows exactly the steps to take in order to call for an interpreter,” says Oloruntola- Coates.

It’s a sign of the times, translating the health care experience.