Hospital language barriers

By Sylvia Hall - bio | email

PASCAGOULA, MS (WLOX) - Mother and daughter Spanish instructors Melissa DeAngelo and Dolores Keenum say there are certain Spanish phrases every doctor should know. They say when it comes to healthcare, you just can't afford to get lost in translation.

"In the medical profession, it's imperative [to cross language barriers] because it's so fast paced and such an adrenaline rush in certain circumstances, that both languages need to be able to be spoken and understood," said DeAngelo about Spanish and English.

That's why they are teaching medical spanish to Singing River Health System Employees. The courses are taught in five-week increments at Ocean Springs Hospital and Singing River Hospital and are specifically tailored to the needs of physicians, nurses and other medical professionals.

"Our hispanic population has grown and will continue to grow," said Singing River Health System CME Director Gloria King. "We saw after Katrina so many of them came here to help rebuild. And they've stayed, and they brought their families over."

The Pew Hispanic Center's research indicates Hispanics make up 15% of the coastal population. That's a lot more than the state as a whole, where only two percent are Hispanic.  Hospital records reflect those numbers.

Singing River Hospital and Ocean Springs Hospital combined saw over 4,200 Hispanic patients last year, and many of them spoke either broken English or no English at all.

"We've got to provide the best care possible, and it has to be to all segments of our community that we are serving," King said.

King says overcoming the language barrier is already helping patients.

"We've found that this is really alleviating a lot of the discomfort, a lot of the fear that people have," King said.