NEW YORK NURSE: January-February 2011
Q.: Many individuals admitted to our hospital require written translation or oral interpretation for informed consent, patient education and many other aspects of care. Is it allowable to utilize staff, such as a provider or nurse who speaks the patient’s language, to translate or interpret for us?
A.: In 2006, language assistive service requirements were added to the Patients’ Rights section of New York State Public Health regulations to ensure that patients, regardless of language or dialect spoken, understand and receive accurate interpretation of medical information from a provider or nurse. This is extremely important, especially when a provider is obtaining informed consent, and when the nurse is providing patient education. The regulations include facility requirements to establish a free language assistance program that will allow patients access to a translator or interpretor; include an individual responsible for oversight of the program; establish policy and procedure related to the service; provide materials summarizing the services available; display signage approved by the New York State Department of Health regarding these services; and provide continuing education for staff related to documentation of a patient’s language preference, language needs and acceptance or refusal of such a program.
If a patient chooses to utilize a family member for interpretation, the policy should reflect documentation requirements that include noting refusal of the services provided by the facility, any issues of age, competency of both the patient and translator, confidentiality of the information being interpreted, and any other conflict of interest. The regulations also require inpatient and outpatient settings to have interpretors skilled in communication with visual/or hearing impaired individuals available to patients within 20 minutes of arrival; and within 10 minutes of arrival to the emergency department setting.
Regardless of providers’ and nurses’ abilities to provide interpretation for a patient, it is essential that you follow your facility’s policies and procedures related to interpretation to ensure culturally and linguistically competent translation or interpretation of medical information. This will protect your patient and ensure that you are providing safe, quality care. If you have questions related to the services provided by your employer, contact your nursing representative, or Education, Practice and Research at 518-782-9400 ext 282 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is a sample of the questions NYSNA’s experts answer each day. The advice given is specific for the situation described and may not be applicable generally. If you have questions about your own work setting, it is recommended that you contact your NYSNA nursing representative or the Education, Practice, and Research Program, 11 Cornell Road, Latham, New York 12110-1499 or call 800-724-NYRN, ext. 282.