What Language Services Mean to Patients

Speaking Together: National Language Services Network

Dates of Project: 2005 to 2010

Field of Work: Improving language services in hospitals.

Synopsis of the Work: Speaking Together: National Language Services Network was the first Robert Wood Johnson Foundation national program to improve the delivery of language services to patients with limited English proficiency using standardized performance improvement measures and a quality improvement framework.

Ten hospitals throughout the country joined a collaborative learning network, developed strategies to improve the quality and accessibility of their language services, and tested them using five standardized performance improvement measures.

Story Told: Having an interpreter benefited patients of the hospitals participating in Speaking Together in many ways. Examples from this sidebar include:

  • At Phoenix Children's Hospital, a 16-year-old patient could not be discharged until the patient and mother, who both only spoke Spanish, were sure they could carry out complex care procedures at home. Spanish interpreters trained in peritoneal dialysis assisted with the instructions.
  • When a pregnant Ecuadorian patient was admitted to UMass Memorial Medical Center with active tuberculosis that required isolation, staff provided an interpreter who spoke both Spanish and Quechua. "We were able to provide culturally respectful care. The patient's understanding of her own medical condition resulted in a positive outcome," said Connie Camelo, director of Interpreter Services.