When patients are sick or in pain, it’s hard enough to communicate effectively with a doctor, nurse practitioner or other health care professional. If the patient doesn’t speak English very well, the difficulties often get multiplied – for the health care provider as well as for the patient.
As Minnesota becomes more diverse, there’s a growing need for qualified health care interpreters who can help negotiate the conversation between patients with limited English-speaking skills and their health care providers. Unfortunately there’s also a shortage of interpreters, especially in rural Minnesota.
The state is now about to launch a new interpreter services quality initiative to break down some of these barriers. It will be implemented in two phases, starting with establishing a statewide roster of people who are available to provide spoken language interpreter services in health care settings.
Interpreters may apply online immediately; there’s a form to fill out and a $50 application fee.
The roster will allow health care providers in Minnesota, for the first time, to connect more readily with health care interpreters for the 21 non-English languages most commonly spoken in Minnesota, as well as over 100 other possible languages. The Web-based roster also will be a clearinghouse for language interpreter services for specific health-related subjects and health care specialties.
In the second phase, a registry will be established for health care language interpreters in MInnesota. The state also is joining a broader international effort to professionalize the field of health care language interpreters by defining the standards that interpreters must meet. The longer-range goal: to develop a formal certification program that ensures health care interpreters are trained and skilled at what they do.