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Feature Article

New Language Guides Reduce Barriers

When a patient, visitor or member steps into a Samaritan facility, language should not be a barrier.

With new, improved and streamlined interpretation guides, that’s now true across Samaritan, whether a person is checking in for a doctor’s appointment, joining a SamFit gym, purchasing health insurance or staying as a guest at the Mario Pastega House.

“We’re not just providing better access,” said Laurie Simpson, director of Patient Experience & Engagement at Samaritan. “We’re improving outcomes and building trust, which is what the community deserves.”

According to U.S. Census data, for about 20% of the population, a language other than English is spoken at home. In Oregon, the most common foreign languages include Spanish, Russian, Chinese (Mandarin and Cantonese) and Vietnamese.

Improving language access for people whose preferred language is not English is part of Samaritan’s Equity & Inclusion Plan to foster an inclusive, respectful, equitable and responsive health system.

Guided by Samaritan’s Equity & Inclusion Council, the plan outlines goals and steps to understand and address issues related to race, ethnicity, gender, culture, socioeconomic status, language, sexual orientation, age, spirituality and literacy.

“We’re not just providing better language access,” Simpson said. “We’re improving safety and quality, which will allow our patients to become more engaged, which reduces errors.”

Samaritan’s Patient & Family Advisory Councils provided feedback and guidance when developing the new language and interpretation guides, said Janessa Thom, Samaritan’s Patient‑Family Engagement Coordinator.

Advisory councils are made up of community members who meet regularly to enhance customer service, improve patient satisfaction, provide feedback for health care providers and promote understanding between the health system and the community. Advisory council members saw an opportunity to make interpreting services more consistent and thorough.

All Samaritan registration staff are equipped with a guide outlining different languages for people to request interpretation services quickly and easily by simply pointing to their preferred language. People will receive a card to carry that identifies their preferred language that they can take to appointments to signal they need interpreting services.

“In the past, interpretation experiences varied by location,” Thom said. “Now, every Samaritan facility uses the same guide to identify and greet people who speak a language other than English.”

Samaritan’s nine Patient & Family Advisory Councils are actively recruiting people to serve as patient advisors. To apply for a position, contact the Service Excellence Team at To learn more about Samaritan’s Equity & Inclusion plan, visit