Part of the importance of our work in cultural competency – especially in cultural competency in health care – is sustainability. Helping the coordinators sustain and develop culturally competent practices in their own institutions. We hold period in-service days for coordinators 2-3 times a year. Our latest meeting for Jerusalem-based coordinators was on January 31.
The meeting included participants from all 4 of Israel’s HMO’s and four hospitals. They discussed a range of issues that they deal with on an ongoing basis in their respective institutions. One of the major issues discussed was communicating in what is known as ‘plain language,’ or ‘writing designed to ensure the reader understands as quickly, easily, and completely as possible.’ It is especially useful within the context of cultural competency, as a way to enable populations who are not fluent in Hebrew to understand necessary information. Dr. Michal Schuster introduced a number of examples of different forms and medical letters, and participants practiced simplifying language, to bring back to their home institutions.
The staff from the Hadassah Hospitals (both Mount Scopus and Ein Kerem) also presented the “In Your Language” program that offers volunteer medical interpretation. They discussed the benefits and challenges of the program, including recruiting and keeping volunteer interpreters. They also presented 3 volunteers, who discussed the challenges they face, and how they deal with those challenges.
The interpreters described a number of their experiences. One was a situation in which parents came along with their son, who suffered from diabetes. The doctor asked a lot of questions, including many nuanced questions about his everyday life, which were important for him to adjust the son’s medication and return him to everyday routine. Another example was that of a woman who suffered from repeated miscarriages. With the help of the interpreter, she received very specific instructions on different tests she was to take in order to try and prevent miscarriages in this pregnancy. There were many more examples.
One of the challenges the interpreters face is that they are unable to be present at every situation that could be helped by medical interpretation. Another is that many of the doctors prefer in-person interpretation to telephone interpretation. A third is the emotional toll interpretation can take on the volunteers, who are often exposed to difficult situations and difficult illnesses. Thus, the support that Hadassah provides for its interpreters is of utmost importance.
Many thanks to the Jerusalem Foundation for their continued support of this program.