Two nonprofits that provide free medical and social services to community members in the regional Tri‑Cities now have iPads to help expand access to translation and interpreting services. The access to the technology was made possible by a partnership with Washington State University Tri‑Cities nursing students and the Kadlec Foundation.

Grace Clinic provides free medical, dental and mental health services to uninsured individuals. The Tri‑City Union Gospel Mission provides a free place to sleep, as well as social and medical support services, to regional homeless individuals.

Avonte Jackson, director of Grace Clinic, said the clinic serves a large population of individuals whose primary language is one other than English. She said it can be challenging to find volunteers who can interpret medical terminology. This is especially difficult for family members who may be asked to translate medical jargon for relatives at their appointments, she said.

In a class focusing on community health practices, WSU Tri‑Cities nursing students examined what they could do to help expand medical access in areas where it was crucially needed. While completing clinical experiences at Grace Clinic, the group noticed the need for translation for patients that don’t speak English.

“As a group, we chose to focus on the immigrant and refugee population in the Tri‑Cities area,” said Magaly Torres, a senior WSU Tri‑Cities nursing student at the time and now alumna. “While completing clinicals at Grace Clinic, we found that many patients do not speak English and the majority required an interpreter.”

Torres and fellow students Bridget Hohl and Beth Phillips came up with the idea to use iPads to provide the service, as they provided great versatility at a relatively small price point. Amid the COVID‑19 pandemic, however, the group faced challenges with raising the funds needed to finalize the project.

WSU Tri‑Cities student Mikaela Thepvongsa said normal public fundraising events, such as a bake sale, were no longer an option, as of last spring. Their instructor, Jennifer Larson, came up with the idea to submit a proposal to the Kadlec Foundation in fall 2020.

“The Kadlec Foundation graciously donated funds to purchase two refurbished iPads for Grace Clinic and the Union Gospel Mission,” Thepvongsa said.

Jackson said the donation of an iPad will allow Grace Clinic to expand access to medical services in a large way.

“We serve a large Spanish-speaking population, but also individuals who speak a variety of other languages,” she said. “This technology will help us in communicating with patients and their family members as we seek to expand access to medical care in the Tri‑Cities for those who otherwise couldn’t afford it due to lack of insurance or other factors.”

Similar to Grace Clinic, the Tri‑City Union Gospel Mission serves clients whose original home countries span the globe. Chariss Warner, the ministry director, said an iPad will also allow their staff and volunteers to address issues in a culturally-sensitive manner.

“I can think of specific examples where words we use can cause fear or misunderstandings,” Warner said. “Having this ability to meet the clients where they are at will be life-changing for many. It will help us build trust and understanding between clients and the health care industry, as a whole.”

“I would just like to thank (WSU Tri‑Cities nursing students) for seeing a need and then meeting the need,” Warner said. “It takes a special group of people to not just see a problem and walk away in judgement, but to come alongside and in partnership to raise the standard of care. Thank you from the bottom of our hearts.”

Rebecca Thornton, development manager at the Kadlec Foundation, said Kadlec has made a targeted effort this year, especially amid the pandemic, to offer more community-facing programming and services outside of what they provide through the traditional clinical setting.

“That has been extra important, given the last year and limitations for in‑person access to medical services,” she said. “Technology like iPads has allowed us to grow patient access to seeing medical professionals, as well as breaking down additional barriers to medical services. We are thrilled to be able to partner with the WSU Tri‑Cities nursing program to provide this resource to Grace Clinic and the Tri‑City Union Gospel Mission.”

For more information about the WSU Tri‑Cities nursing program and ways to partner, visit tricities.wsu.edu/nursing.