WSU Tri-Cities nursing students translation program helps non-English speaking patients

KENNEWICK, Wash. – Mikaela Thepvongsa and Magaly Torres know what it’s like to experience language barriers in a healthcare setting.

“Not having an interpreter was always an issue,” Mikaela said.

“I have been that child in medical appointments for my mom,” Magaly added.

Thepvongsa, a nursing students at WSU Tri-Cities is deaf, and Magaly would translate from English to Spanish for her mother.

“Feeling kind of left out of your own treatment because they’re deciding for you,” Mikaela said.

“They either bring a family member or hope that someone in the clinic speaks Spanish that can help out,” Magaly added.

Last year while she was doing rotations at Grace Clinic, Magaly and her peers brainstormed ideas for a class at WSU Tri-Cities.

They wanted to help patients who don’t speak English, or may have trouble with hearing issues.

“We came up with the idea of ‘hey we should search for translation services or apps on an iPhone or iPad,'” Magaly recalled.

Grace Clinic Director Avonte Jackson said while they do have translators to help patients, they’re not always available, or, may get caught up in appointments.

“We want to make that they are understanding their healthcare needs and it’s being communicated to them in a language that is most understandable for them,” she said.

Although Magaly graduated in December or 2020, Mikaela and her peers continued to the project.

They needed to get iPads for Grace Clinic and Union Gospel Mission, but with COVID-19 restrictions, they couldn’t organize any fundraisers. So, they presented their idea to the Kadlec Foundation, who happily provided them with two iPads, loaded with the app, Medibable.

“That was my motivation because I know there’s other people out there that have the same problem,” Mikaela said.

“It really makes a difference for the patient because they’re more open; they’re more likely to tell you really how they feel,” Magaly added.

The app helps care providers figure out how they can best treat their patient, when they can’t speak his or her language.

The app asks the patient yes or no questions in their language and can prompt a patient to point where they’re hurt, or let them know the care provider needs to take their temperature.

Jackson said this way, they can ensure everyone gets the help they need, regardless of the language they speak.

“Anything and everything we can do to make sure they know that they are a priority and that we’re here to take care of them, then that’s gonna improve the experience for everybody overall;
that’s our number one goal,” she said.

Union Gospel Mission also received one of the iPads, to care for people who need medical care.

More from KAPP KVEW: