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Communicating COVID-19: how Carle interpreters help heal

Communicating COVID-19: how Carle interpreters help heal
According to the US Census Bureau, nearly 17% of households in Champaign County speak a language other than English in the home. That number jumps to nearly 20% when you look at the city of Champaign alone.

These languages include Spanish, French, Mandarin and many more.

So when healthcare professionals at Carle are presented with a language barrier in treating and diagnosing COVID-19, how are these challenges navigated? This is where Carle’s team of interpreters can help.

Interpreters ensure that information related to a patient’s condition or health needs are accurately communicated, and most importantly, understood.

Carle currently offers interpretation of over 200 languages, including American Sign Language. Many languages, such as Spanish, French and Mandarin, are available for in-person interpretation, while others are available via video or audio calls. 

Jaime Lancon, supervisor, Carle Interpreter Services, says that now more than ever Carle interpreters have stepped up to the plate to make sure every patient feels equipped and empowered in their care. 

“For many patients with limited English proficiency, the only way to communicate is through an interpreter,” Lancon said. “Due to the unprecedented nature of COVID-19, patients often receive conflicting information from different sources. Accurate interpretation is more important than ever to ensure that all of our patients’ concerns are addressed appropriately.”

GettyImages-1218228309-(1).jpgThe COVID-19 pandemic only furthers the importance of accurate interpretation.

Many find that interpreters provide simple peace of mind, knowing that a qualified interpreter will be available to assist them to effectively communicate with their provider.

Precision is key to ensuring treatment or medical advice is fully understood.

“Patients don’t have to rely on untrained bilingual friends or family members who do not adhere to uniform standards of practice,” Lancon said.  “Interpreters will not make any changes to the message they are trying to convey. In turn, patients will receive a high-quality rendition of the provider’s communication.”

For many healthcare workers, using interpreters is one way to ensure that patients understand every detail of their care. It's important that they are able to feel comfortable asking questions or understanding the steps they need to take.

Cheryl Holderbaugh, RN, works with patients on the COVID-19 Hotline. She says that it can be difficult to stress urgency or key details to those who may not be proficient in English.

Interpreters have been a key part of how nurses like Holderbaugh effectively communicate COVID-19.

“Our team of interpreters are alert to whether the patient understands their care and whether the nurse needs to clarify further,” Holderbaugh said. “We want to make sure they have a total understanding of how to stop the spread, and most importantly, how and when to call for help.”

Lancon also stressed that it’s important to understand how each culture perceives and responds to disease, noting the uniqueness in each culture’s response. Carle’s team of interpreters work to understand not only the language, but the culture and behavioral patterns behind it.

“A qualified medical interpreter is trained to identify cultural barriers and provide the cultural context to enhance the interaction between the patient and provider,” Lancon said. “Our goal is to not make our patients feel alienated or disrespected. We will always ask for clarification from the patient when a cultural barrier is perceived rather than making an assumption.”

Patients wishing to access Carle’s interpreters can call (217) 326-0340. For more COVID-19 resources, visit

Categories: Community

Tags: coronavirus, COVID-19, interpretation, translation