Being on the other side of a hospital visit gives you a different perspective about a few of the important issues that are present. I am by far no expert, but by talking to the nurses on staff in the Emergency Room and by interacting with patients, I have began to notice common issues and concerns. The hospital can be a confusing place to navigate, and one of the biggest challenges is that patients sometimes have misunderstandings about what resources they should be utilizing and what assistance is available to them.
One time there was an elderly man who could not read or write very well and he spoke only Spanish. He had been given instructions about his treatment before he came to see us, the Health Advocates, for help on health insurance. While we were helping him, he expressed concern that he was confused about how to proceed with his treatment after he left the hospital because he didn’t understand the instructions that were given to him. Because he was able to communicate his confusion to my partner in Spanish, we were able to get him the proper translations he needed instead of leaving the hospital without asking any questions.
In a different situation, we assisted a man who did not have health insurance and was under the impression that he was not eligible for Medi-Cal because he did not have a job. He was relieved to discover that he was eligible for HPE (the Hospital Presumptive Eligibility program) and in the future, Medi-Cal as well. It is because of situations such as the two that were just described that I believe Health Bridge’s mission is so important. The health care system when you’re an uninsured patient and/or a patient with limited English proficiency can be extremely confusing, and with Health Advocates' assistance, we can help sort out situations that might have been overlooked.
Sometimes the most important way we can help the patients are in intangible factors. When my fellow Health Bridge advocate works with a Spanish patient, I cannot understand their conversation but I observe the conversation and watch the patient’s body language. The patient relaxes and the conversation is more fluid. Their initial desperate and contorted expression is exchanged for a relieved one as they are able to clearly express their concerns. The hospital is a nerve-wrecking, tense place for some and being able to lift the language barrier is key to the patient getting the care they need.
Maryann Zhao is a sophomore at Pomona College from San Diego, CA. She is a Molecular Biology major and wants to become a doctor in the future. On campus, she is a TA for Computer Science, involved in Molecular Biology/Chemistry research, and a member of the Pomona-Pitzer Women's Varsity Tennis Team. In her free time, she enjoys developing her coding skills and exploring the outdoors.