Interpreter On Wheels: New technology provides safe, quality care in any language at Nova Scotia's regional hospitals

Emergency department health services manager Rob MacKinley and registered nurse Lori Milne demonstrate how to use Interpreter On Wheels at the Halifax Infirmary.
Emergency department health services manager Rob MacKinley and registered nurse Lori Milne demonstrate how to use Interpreter On Wheels at the Halifax Infirmary.

A cruise ship docks in Halifax and a passenger who doesn’t speak English is rushed to the emergency department, where they have to give consent to undergo surgery.

An elderly patient who doesn’t speak English comes to the Halifax Infirmary’s emergency department with their family. The patient and family have to make decisions about whether to continue active treatment or opt for palliative care.
 
A family that has recently moved to Canada and does not speak English brings their very sick child in for treatment. The child is diagnosed with leukemia and the family needs help navigating the health system in a new and unfamiliar country.

Lori Milne has navigated all of these scenarios first-hand as triage nurse at the Charles V. Keating and Trauma Centre at the QEII Health Sciences Centre.

Every time, Milne has been able to access interpretation services immediately.

That quick access is thanks to new Interpreter On Wheels technology now available at emergency departments in Nova Scotia at the following locations: Aberdeen Hospital, Cape Breton Regional Hospital, Cobequid Community Health Centre, Colchester East Hants Health Centre, Cumberland Regional Health Care Centre, Dartmouth General Hospital, Lillian Fraser Memorial Hospital, North Cumberland Memorial Hospital, South Shore Regional Hospital, St. Martha's Regional Hospital, Valley Regional Hospital, Yarmouth Regional Hospital and of course, the QEII in Halifax.

The electronic tablet, built into a portable cart, provides instant video call access to interpreters in more than 35 languages through an external service called Language Line.

“I find it extremely easy to access,” Milne said. “It allows you to make decisions in a timely manner on how to address the patient’s needs properly.”

Because interpreters receive training in a variety of scenarios, including health, Milne feels confident in the accuracy of the translation.

In addition to ensuring the patient and family understand what’s happening and patients are able to provide informed consent, Milne said the technology also takes the pressure off families.

“They think, ‘even if we’re not here every minute, she’s going to be able to communicate what she needs.' ”