Marshallese Interpreter – A Vital Voice in Arkansas Pediatric Care

overcome language barriers

Babies and toddlers cry because they lack the language to describe hunger, discomfort, and pain. Most new parents understand the helplessness and frustration of guessing how to calm a crying child. If the crying is accompanied by a fever or rash, a sense of dread may creep in. These fears and annoyances are compounded when there is a language barrier when visiting a hospital.

“Families are nervous or nervous,” said Noda Roycar, who has provided Marshallese interpreting services for more than six years in northwest Arkansas. “Their faces changed when I walked in and said ‘lo̧kwe’ (‘Hello’ in Marshallese). They’re more comfortable there.”

Roycarl and Rosalia Lalzi are full-time certified Marshallese medical interpreters based in Arkansas Children’s Northwest (ACNW) in Springdale. ACNW employs additional part-time interpreters to ensure that language services are available to Marshall’s family day and night.

More than 15,000 Marshallese live in Arkansas, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, making it one of the largest concentrations of Marshallese outside the Republic of the Marshall Islands in the United States. In the 1980s, Marshallese began migrating from the island nation to Arkansas, where many found work. Tyson factory. As the community grew, so did the need for services.

When ACNW opened in 2018, it represented the Arkansas Department of Children’s Department’s commitment to providing close-to-home care for all children in the state, including the growing Marshallese population in the Northwest region. I was.

Larouge has been providing interpreting services at ACNW for the past three years. Prior to that, she worked as an interpreter for the Arkansas Department of Health and other agencies in the area. Larouj said he has been an informal interpreter on the island since he was a teenager. She had the best of her English speaking skills and frequently acted as an interpreter for her family during her church activities and doctor visits. Larouge earned her official medical interpreter certification through the Medical Interpreter Accreditation Board in April, and she chose to join the Arkansas Children’s Association full-time.

“I, [Marshallese] Communities… are struggling to navigate the health system,” Larouj said. “At Arkansas Children’s Northwest, we can make a difference in our communities.”

enhance cultural understanding

Simple translation is the simplest part of a medical interpreter’s job. For example, when a non-English speaking patient family calls, an interpreter can translate details such as appointment dates and times and directions to the hospital from English to Marshallese (also known as Ebon). Things get even more difficult when Marshallese doesn’t have words for certain medical terms. Interpreters like Larougi and Roycard must find ways to explain the difference between ‘bacteria’, ‘disease’ and ‘virus’ to patients and their caregivers. Because the same Marshallese explains all three. Similarly, since there is no word for “valve” in Marshallese, Roycar said he uses Marshallese for “door” when explaining heart valve-related conditions to Marshallese family members.

A medical interpreter is a two-way street, or bridge, between the medical provider and the Marshallese family. Arkansas Children’s Hospital interpreters not only translate complex medical terminology from English to Marshallese, but also explain important aspects of Marshallese culture to healthcare providers.

Traditional Marshallese medicine relies heavily on what Larji calls “massage therapists and herbal remedies.” Families may prefer to try these techniques before agreeing to invasive surgery. Religious leaders also play an important role in the Marshallese communities of the islands and Arkansas. Christianity is the predominant religion, and some Marshallese families prefer to consult a pastor before making any medical decisions.

Outside the doctor’s office or emergency room

The impact of medical interpreters goes beyond interpreting individual patients, doctors and nurses. Marshallese interpreters work with Arkansas Children’s Center financial counselors, schedulers, and social workers to communicate with patients and their caregivers. Facilitating effective communication improves the overall quality of care provided by the health system. This allows healthcare providers to fully understand a child’s medical history, symptoms and concerns, leading to an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatment. This improves patient outcomes.

Arkansas has a relatively small Marshallese population, making up less than 1% of the state’s total population. In 2022, patients who identified as “Native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander” made 4,708 visits to children’s hospitals or clinics in Arkansas, less than 1% of the total annual patient count. Arkansas Children is committed to providing national-level pediatric care to every child in the state. Our Marshallese interpreters play a key role in delivering on that promise.

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