Interpreter machine donated to Western Tidewater Free Clinic in Suffolk


SUFFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — The staff at the Western Tidewater Free Clinic in Suffolk have been a busy team since COVID-19 restrictions were loosened in Virginia.

With more patients coming in, they also recently found the need for a new language interpreter.

“We knew that we wanted to be as open as possible for people who have needs for translation services,” said Western Tidewater Free Clinic, Executive Director, Rhonda Stewart.

But it’s probably not what you’re thinking — this interpreter comes in the form of an iPad on wheels.

It’s called an AMN Healthcare video temote interpreting machine and comes with 170 language options — including American Sign Language.

In a simulation with an employee, they demonstrated how a user can click the language they need translated, and a virtual interpreter pops up on the screen.

The user can even roll the interpreter machine with them throughout their entire appointment.

“I think that makes any barrier or fear of being able to communicate when you cannot speak the language of people providing care for you, it just completely eliminates it, because if you can see someone who’s speaking the language, it helps facilitate — I think — better care,” explained Stewart.

Before this, the machine was at one of Suffolk’s mass vaccination clinics run by AshBritt-IEM Health, to help people communicate about their shots.

“It’s been so helpful to us in ensuring equity in all the communities we’re serving in,” explained AshBritt-IEM Health Director of COVID and Communications Hannah Salem.

Once the company focused on mobile clinics, they donated the machine to Western Tidewater Free Clinic.

From one good home to another, the gliding communication buddy is helping an important mission of inclusion in the area.

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