After many weeks of filling out applications and getting various medical clearances, I am a volunteer/intern with the language services department at Provena Hospital. I was getting nervous for a while about whether or not everything would get figured out in time for me to get my 28 hours. Now that I have started to help at Provena, I know that I will definitely get all the hours that I need because there is a lot to do. As volunteers/interns, our job is to help the language services department get its feet off the ground with our supervisor Alejandra Coronel. The program is relatively new in terms of having a larger presence in the hospital and making translation services more accessible to patients. It is something that most of us do not have to think about, being able to understand the nurses and doctors taking care of us, but there are numerous people in the Champaign-Urbana area who need the assistance of a translator in order to feel more comfortable with their medical care. There is already an element of stress when a patient or their family comes to the hospital, but we can help alleviate some of that stress by having resources available in languages other than English.
My first day of volunteering I met with Alejandra in her office after running to Provena from my Physics lab that had taken longer than usual. We sat down and she explained the program and what our goal was for the semester and long-term. After learning about what her expectations were and what things I could work on while at home, I filled out some contact information and completed some secretarial tasks in the office. One of our first tasks as a group of volunteers was to translate all of the signs in the hospital into Spanish. I was surprised that this had not already been done, but then I realized the large cost of the additional signs. The following week I compiled a list of medical documents that needed to be updated and then translated into Spanish. I am quickly realizing how much time these simple tasks take and how much of a help it is to have students with less experience helping complete them so that the program is more efficient and can help a larger number of patients. The next big project that we have coming up is helping with a health fair in the Latino community, so we will be busy translating materials for two weeks before the event happens on April 15th.
Although I have not had any contact with patients at the hospital, Alejandra and I talk in Spanish most of the time. Her accent is a bit difficult to understand, but she is helping me get over my “stage-fright” of speaking Spanish with native-speakers. I get very nervous when I need to communicate and speaking conversationally with her has helped me get over some of those nerves. This position is not what I initially expected, but it has opened my eyes to how important language services can be to a growing hospital.