Language is the Heart of Patient Safety

02 Dec 2014

Moe Rustom of Detroit has been a nurse for more than 23 years and understands the challenges of limited English proficiency in patients as a provider. He believes that using interpreters takes a clever health care provider. The opportunity may not always be apparent, but using interpreters can have a big payoff in terms of patient safety and experience. He describes one case in which a patient nodded his head when a nurse asked if he understood the directions for taking one pill a day for the next seven days—and that he patient went home, took all seven pills at once, and came back with a brain bleed. Rustom quoted Nelson Mandela: “If you talk to a man in a language he understands, it goes to his head. If you talk him in his own language, it goes to his heart.”” 

Moe Rustom is the director of clinical language services at Oakwood Healthcare System.