Medical interpreters class fills vital need

More than 50 languages are spoken by families who have children in Bartholomew Consolidated School Corp., so there’s no doubt language barriers exist in this community that hinder some local residents from seeking essential services such as health care.

That’s why a five-week class for high school students and adults in the region — conducted at Columbus East High School — which trains individuals to become bilingual medical interpreters, fills an important niche. It ensures that communication between patients and care providers, such as doctors and nurses, is accurate.

The Bridging the Gap class is a collaboration between C4 Columbus Area Career Connection, Columbus Regional Health and East Indiana Area Health Education Center. Students are recruited to participate through health science and Project Lead the Way — Biomedical courses.

The most recent interpreter class included 21 students from Columbus North, Columbus East and Seymour high schools, up from nine students and one adult last year.

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Those who pass earn a certificate, which allows them to volunteer at local medical facilities. Certification also opens up career opportunities for the students. In the first four years, 37 students and 12 adults passed.

Bilingual medical interpreters are an important addition to the community because understanding medical professionals can be difficult for those for whom English is a second language. Interpreters are tasked with knowing the body systems, how they work, the names and functions of the organs, and common and uncommon illnesses so they can ensure that what medical professionals are telling patients is easily understood.

When it comes to something as vital as medical care, services that can reduce the chances of misunderstandings and mistakes are helpful. Bridging the Gap is such as service.

In a culturally diverse community such as Columbus, offering this class is a great idea and one worth continuing.