UnityPoint Health Sees Need for Interpreters at All-Time High in Des Moines

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DES MOINES, Iowa — As the Des Moines metro continues to grow, so does its diversity. UnityPoint Health in Des Moines says its need for interpreters is at an all-time high.

“It’s hard to think about a day where I haven’t used it, both in the clinic where I work at now and when I was working throughout the hospital,” Dr. Orrin Probst, Blank Clinic Pediatrician said.

It doesn’t matter what part of the hospital, or when, UnityPoint Health’s interpreters are always being put to work.

“Yesterday I was in surgery. Today I might be in the pediatric clinic. I might be used in critical care unit, or maternity helping with a C-section,” John Redlin, UnityPoint Health Spanish Interpreter said.

Des Moines’ need for medical interpreters is growing exponentially. In 2016, UnityPoint Health averaged 280 Spanish speaking requests per month. Today, that number is more than 500.

“It’s very apparent when you walk in, whether it’s me speaking Spanish or one of the interpreters, you will see their whole body becomes relaxed. They are more easy going and the conversation starts to become the more typical conversation,” Probst said.

Probst says even though he is fluent in Spanish he still uses interpreters because they are more than just bilingual. They understand the most complicated of medical terminology. They make sure everything the doctor says is understood.

“Sometimes family members feel like they have to be the interpreters because they’ve been doing that since they were young children and really that’s a no-no because they might not have the vocabulary, maybe they aren’t trained,” Redlin said. “We want them to be the moral support for their family instead of feeling like they have to interpret for their mom or dad.”

But beyond anything else, the interpreters just want to make sure every patient gets the care they need.

“No matter if they know a little bit of English, or none at all, we want them to feel comfortable in their first language,” Redlin said.

UnityPoint Health has also doubled its interpreter staff since 2016. Spanish is their most requested language, next is Karen and Burmese.


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