Bridging language barriers and virtual barriers to help pregnant women

The Healthy Beginnings Nurses program through the Florida Department of Health connects women who have at-risk pregnancies with nurses who will regularly visit them so their babies are born healthy, safe and strong. In addition, the program provides clients with family support workers who act as interpreters. Overseeing the team of three Spanish-speaking family support workers and two Creole-speaking family support workers is Mercedes Battle. 

Battle talked about the challenges that some of the pregnant women have faced during the COVID crisis: 

“We are really trying to help clients with technology. The transition from home visits to virtual visits has not been easy for all families. Assisting clients with setting up Skype for Business has been very challenging, especially for clients who cannot read or write in English.  Also, there are many clients who have a phone but don’t have an email address or know that they actually have one.” 

“Here’s an example of one client who we assisted with setting up Skype for Business. The client is a teenager from Guatemala who never learned to read or write. She does not speak English or Spanish. She speaks one of the many dialects in her country. She came from Guatemala with her father. The nurse and the family support worker completed two home visits with the client before the pandemic. It was challenging to get in touch with her after the shutdown and once we reached her, due to the language barrier, we could not set up Skype for her virtual visit.” 

“With her permission we called a few different family members and friends to see who could help her to set up Skype. I spoke to her mother-in-law, her father, and her friends. I was on the phone from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m. as we went through family members to see who could help us and each time I spoke to a new person, I would have to explain the process all over again. Eventually, with much persistence, we were successful in getting her connected to Skype and the nurse was able to have virtual visits with her. She has since delivered a healthy baby. They are both doing great and she continues to meet the nurse virtually. She is receiving the services she needs.” 

 “We have some clients who when we contact them, they are super happy because they are isolated. We talk to them about what they can do when they are home alone such as taking a walk or gardening. It is emotional support. It’s like a friend calling but there is the added benefit of health education. The focus is always relationship-building between clients, nurses and interpreters so that the family can achieve the best outcomes for the pregnancy and their family.” 

“I’ve seen many cases where clients were in bad situations and with the help of our program they are successful in achieving goals such as getting a job and improving their parenting skills. It is all about the clients.” 

About Healthy, Safe, Strong Stories

Throughout the COVID-19 pandemic, Children’s Services Council of Palm Beach County continues to serve local children and families with the same mission that’s motivated us since 1986: to keep our county’s children healthy, safe and strong. This #HealthySafeStrong series highlights the vital work our providers are doing, and reminds Palm Beach County families that Children’s Services Council is here for you. To contact Children’s Services Council, please click here.