Flagstaff Cardiovascular Institute Offers Navajo Translation Services | Local

Northern Arizona Healthcare’s Cardiovascular Institute (CVI) in Flagstaff now offers translation services for its Navajo and Spanish patients.

Each language requires a specific type of interpretation, as a translator’s experience shows. Priscilla Lyons, a certified medical assistant at CVI, is also the institute’s Navajo translator.

In her role as a translator, Lyons stays with patients during their appointments, interpreting and answering questions. She said the impact of the service can be seen in a patient’s response.

“When you greet Navajo speakers in their language, they immediately feel like they have family at the clinic and are more open and relaxed about having their doctor’s appointment,” she said.

Mackenzie Kirby, who works in community relations for CVI, said the institute has many Navajo-speaking patients. They often have a long drive (sometimes up to three or four hours in total) to receive medical care, so it’s especially important to make sure they understand their doctor.

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“It is very important that when [patients] travel…they leave feeling fully understood and understood what the takeaway plan for their health is,” she said. “So the goal is to overcome barriers and improve access and care, as well as understanding of diagnosis and treatment.”

The most important thing for patients to know, Lyons said, is that “we’re here to help.”

She finds herself translating it to her patients more than anything else.

“I greet them with this statement and say, ‘As I was to my own parents, I’m here to be your ears and your voice,'” she said.

Lyons recently lost both parents and brother to COVID-19. They are the main reason for his work with CVI’s translation program.

“I’m convinced that I want to help patients who don’t understand their medical diagnosis or treatment in the same way my parents didn’t, because of language barriers,” she said.

She served as an interpreter for her parents’ medical appointments and saw similar needs among Navajo-speaking patients at the clinic where she works.

“Several times in the past, I’ve asked Navajo-speaking patients how their appointment went and what the doctor said and recommended, and they would say, ‘Well, the doctor let me go to home so I have to be fine” she said. “It shows a misunderstanding when there is a language barrier. I know with Navajo speakers they need a lot of help with translation to help them understand their condition and treatment.

Lyons had unofficially served as an interpreter for CVI doctors before receiving his certification. Her office manager suggested she get certified so that there would be a more organized and formal way to meet patient needs.

Certification can be difficult to plan, as there is only one instructor and it takes three full days of work. Prospective translators must demonstrate fluency in both languages ​​as well as medical terminology and the appropriate means of interpreting it, according to Kirby.

Certain qualities of the Navajo language require a specific type of interpretation. Being spoken makes translation apps impossible, for example. And since it’s “very descriptive and literal,” Lyons said, she can’t use small terms.

“I use hand movements and gestures, and I show the object, for example. Blood pressure is very similar to blood lab work, so I have to show them the blood pressure cuff when I’m clarifying from what we are discussing,” she said.

When she has to explain results from a blood lab, for example, Lyons said she explains in detail what each item is and what each patient’s score means.

“Many patients are confused about calcium-containing medications if they also have a problem with calcium buildup that they need to make lifestyle changes, including improving their diet,” she said. for exemple. “Often doctors monitor their levels and add vitamins, and I have to explain to patients why this is necessary.”

She said a patient with questions at the end of an appointment means she did her job properly.

“In my experience, if they don’t have questions, it tells me they don’t understand, and I look for ways to clarify,” she said.

Interpretation also includes a cultural component that is particularly important in medical discussions.

Lyons was raised in Navajo traditions, which allowed her to understand the concerns of her patients.

“Traditionally we would go to the local Indian Health Service clinic if you were very ill, but usually we looked after each other at home with traditional medicine. I grew up in Shonto and I understand where our traditional patients come from, but I also encourage them to trust the medical care provided at CVI,” she said.

A common example is that while having a living will or advance directive is a best practice in medicine, discussing it is considered taboo in Navajo culture.

“To overcome this obstacle, I’m explaining my own story of how I lost my own parents, and we didn’t have a living will or advance directive in place and it was very difficult to make decisions in family. I encourage patients to use my story as an example – even if it’s taboo, it’s helpful to discuss it,” she said.

Connie A. Bailey