UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center uses grant funds to purchase new ‘wheels’ | SteamboatToday.com

UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center uses grant funds to purchase new ‘wheels’

Natalie Solawetz, a patient access registrar at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, listens as an interpreter introduces himself via one of the new Interpreters on Wheels available to patients.

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — When a patient arrives in the emergency room at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center, they are seeking compassionate care and quick answers to their medical questions.

The doctors, nurses and medical professionals want to provide those services, but at times, there is a language barrier. 

"We had 16 different languages used in 2017 at the hospital," said Erica Gallagher, manager of language services at Yampa Valley Medical Center. "Our highest frequency languages are Spanish, Vietnamese and Mandarin. When you first encounter someone that speaks a language other than the one you speak, you may feel like you can communicate decently, and that's OK. But the more you have experience with it, you come to realize that, even if one word is misinterpreted, the outcome could be fatal or at the very least, have really negative consequence for the patient."

Yampa Valley Medical Center currently employs two full-time interpreters and four others who work on a per-diem basis, but there are times when there are no interpreters available. And that's when the hospital uses its Interpreter on Wheels, a rolling station that allows an interpreter to video chat with patients who don't speak English, may use sign language or may be visually and hearing impaired.

The Interpreter on Wheels includes a iPad placed on an adjustable stand. There are speakers so patients can turn up the volume and magnifiers that help those with visual impairments see the screen. It can be adjusted up and down and back and forward.

'The speakers are attached to it, so you can hear it better than a regular iPad" said Nelly Navarro Carnero, a medical interpreter at UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center. "When we use it in the emergency department, and there are a lot of people talking at the same time or there are patients right next to each other, the volume is just better, and the quality is better, too."

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The rolling interpreter provides more than 35 different languages via video. In addition, it offers 270 languages that can be accessed with the phone. 

Thanks to a $5,000 grant from Colorado Trust, a foundation dedicated to creating fair, equal opportunities for Coloradans to lead healthy lives, the hospital has increased the number of Interpreters on Wheels to five. 

Colorado Trust discovered the hospital's need during Rural Philanthropy Days, which connects funders with nonprofit organizations and government agencies that serve rural Colorado. 

Gallagher said Karen Schneider, executive director of the UCHealth Yampa Valley Medical Center Foundation, was the one who presented the idea to the funding organization.

To reach John F. Russell, call 970-871-4209, email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com or follow him on Twitter @Framp1966.