Midstate hospitals add interpreters for Pennsylvania Dutch

Written by Rachel McDevitt | Feb 16, 2018 6:30 PM

(Harrisburg) -- Members of the Amish and Mennonite communities now have more options at midstate hospitals.

People in the Plain community can speak English, but primarily use Pennsylvania Dutch in the home.

Now, they can use the language at Wellspan hospitals.

Joanne Eshelman, director of Plain community relationships for Wellspan Health, says interpreters can make patients feel more comfortable navigating the health care system.

"They're there to be a bridge between the patient and the staff," Eshelman said. "And because they're independent of the family dynamics they're able to sort through the situation in a way that might be a little bit different."

Wellspan's interpreter is Lydia Nolt, a member of an Old Order Mennonite community. She's believed to be the first certified Pennsylvania Dutch medical interpreter in the state. 

She's been working as a community liason for about four years and received her certification last fall.

Eshelman says Nolt can help put Plain patients at ease.

"It's not always because of the language, it just might be because of the complexity that is health care today--sorting through that maze, and getting from 'I know I need care' to actually getting the care you need," she said.

Eshelman says the demand for interpretation services is growing, now that Plain people know Nolt is there to assist them.

Wellspan has had a Plain community program in place for about a decade.

Liasions help them navigate the system and offer special pricing for the population, which doesn't usually carry insurance.

Lancaster General Hospital has also added an interpreter.

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