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Training our Community Translators: NGOs Providing Language Services in Rural Community Healthcare Systems

Spiker-Miller, Rio
As the Spanish-speaking population in the United States has continued to grow in recent years, increasing by 1.9% every year between 2015 and 2019 (Noe-Bustamante et al., 2020), the healthcare system has attempted to adapt to these demographic shifts, seeking to provide non-English speaking clients with access to healthcare services. However, the language barrier between patient and provider has been a problem for many hospitals and healthcare systems, especially in rural communities. Translation in and of itself is very difficult; finding ways to communicate words and ideas across languages and cultures takes specialized knowledge and years of training. One struggle that non-governmental organizations (NGOs) face is providing healthcare to rural communities (Maulik et al., 2015). These organizations often rely on volunteer and student-run systems that provide a range of proficiency and competence (Showstack 2019). As such, Spanish-speaking patients who need language assistance often receive inconsistent and uncertified language access services across different phases of patient care. Although research suggests that effective training in interpretive and translation services is necessary in order to improve services to patients, thus far, most research to date has been only considered in urban healthcare centers rather than rural ones (Metzger et al., 2014). This research project seeks to address the following question, How can an NGO in a rural area more effectively train interpreters to better serve Spanish-speaking clients? My research shows that further training is required of the interpreters and translators of a Healthcare NGO through regular assessment, training by a community member, and regular interaction with the changing rural community in which the NGO is situated. This is an important study because in many ways language has become a social determinant of health; if minority language groups are unable to communicate their needs within the healthcare system, they may be unable to receive help (White et al., 2018).
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