Dipshikha Dahal, the refugee coordinator at Family HealthCare center, enters the birth date, Social Security number and address of the refugee sitting across from the desk from her, an Iraqi refugee dressed in a black hijab and a long dress that covers everything but her face. She came to Fargo alone. She quietly states the answers Dipshikha asks. A medical interpreter sits next to the refugee, looking directly at her while relaying Dipshikha’s questions. The interpreter is also from Iraq, but her hijab and dress look as if they were splattered with a multicolored paintbrush.
Every day, at Family Health Care and other medical centers in the local Fargo-Moorhead area, medical interpreters are building bridges of communication for refugees who are trying to create lives separate from the horrors they experienced at home. Medical interpreters like the one helping the Iraqi woman and Jasmine Gehrig, FHC’s medical interpreters manager, are creating more than communication. Gehrig is building a community that she can be proud of by helping refugees find the life they hope to live through her interpreting and the kind acts she does outside of her job description
When resettling in the Fargo-Moorhead area, most refugees’ first stop is the Family Health Care on New American Day, a refugee clinic set up two to three times a month. Here, they receive vaccinations and medical appointments for any personal health concerns. In able to understand what’s happening to them in this new culture, New Americans need someone to interpret their appointments and paperwork. That is where the medical interpreter comes in.
Dipshikha works with all New Americans who come in for the New American clinic. Refugees usually begin by registering with Dipshikha before their first health screening in the U.S. The interpreters help relay information as refugees go through different stages in the medical clinic. During an appointment with nurse Marlene Espejo, the interpreter and the refugee go over a series of questions to create a current medical history. The interpreter then assists the refugee during the rest of the process by helping him or her understand their shots, blood work and vision and hearing checks. After New American Day, interpreters continue to be there for their patients, within and beyond the walls of FHC.
Since Gehrig has been at FHC, she has helped several refugees make their way through the American medical process. She came to the U.S. from Bosnia in 2001 and was later hired at FHC as a Bosnian medical interpreter for one year. After that she was promoted to management. Since then, she has been managing the interpreters department for nine or ten years.
“We are a little family. We really care for one another,” Gehrig said. “All of us came from a third country because of war or abuse and want to make the best of our lives in a wonderful country.”
Gehrig and her team want to help the refugees do the same by providing them with their interpretive services and skills. Many of the interpreters were refugees and have already gone through the process of settling into the Fargo-Moorhead community. Now that they are in a place to contribute to their new home, Gehrig and her team have decided their mission is to serve everybody, especially New Americans and refugees.
According to Gehrig, the main populations served by FHC are Nepali, Somali and Arabic speaking refugees. FHC has 25 interpreters, all New Americans. They speak 10 languages including Arabic, Bosnian, Kurdish, Nepali, Vietnamese, Kirundi, Swahili, Somali, Spanish and Kinyarwanda. Other languages can be reached through a language phone line.
The complexities of medical interpreting
The service medical interpreters provide to their clients is quite different from that of a social interpreter. Social interpreters, such as education or community interpreters, will receive only one version of training to serve the community. In the medical field, interpreters need to not only learn the cultures they are assisting, but specific medical terminology as well, Gehrig said.
To read more of this article courtesy of The Concordian —> click here