Grace Anne Wainaina has been a Hospice and Palliative Care volunteer at St. Luke’s since 2011. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, she has also given her time as a way finder and assisted with other hospital projects. One day in September, as she was volunteering at the West Desk, a situation arose where Grace Anne’s was able to use her bilingualism to greatly impact one patient’s experience.
Originally from Kenya, Grace Anne moved to the United States in 2002. She is fluent in Swahili, which came in handy on this particular day.
“As I was standing there (at the West Desk), a man summoned me over and stated in Swahili that the registration people were working on his paperwork and it had taken awhile,” said Grace Anne. “I told him they would be done shortly and are probably trying to figure out where he needed to go. He asked me if I could take him and his son to their destination, to which I responded ‘yes.’”
The man’s son had fallen off a bike and hurt his shoulder. Grace Anne walked the father and son to Imaging for an MRI. Due to the language barrier, Grace Anne was asked to help this family with more paperwork prior to getting the MRI. A certified interpreter is needed to make the documentation official, so Grace Anne explained to them they were going to call an interpreter to finish the process and then returned to the West Desk.
Shortly after returning to the West Desk, Grace Anne was called back to MRI. A certified interpreter was not available until the next day, and with no way for them to get home, Grace Anne was called back to help get ahold of the their sponsor (the person who helped bring them to America as they were refugees). After being unable to contact the sponsor, St. Luke’s patient advocate was contacted and gave them vouchers for a taxi ride home and for the next day. Grace Anne explained to them how the vouchers worked and even stayed an hour and 45 minutes after her shift to ensure they got their taxi and the driver knew where to take them.
“St. Luke’s believes in doing what’s right for the people we serve,” said Grace Anne. “And my own policy is do unto others what you would want them to do for you. They were new in America and Iowa and I was motivated to help.”
Grace Ann also discussed the impact people of diverse backgrounds can have on the patient experience at St. Luke’s. “Language barriers can hinder the quality of care. Their situation was a good example. No one was at fault, but because of the barrier, their care was moved to another day and the son went home still in pain,” she said. “Diversity strengthens the community and it would strengthen the reputation of St. Luke’s. We would have people of various culture coming to our hospital for care, thus improving productivity.”
“Also, a big thank you to the two MRI team members and patient advocate for taking care of the patient,” said Grace Anne. “He was very grateful. I did find out they came back the next day for their scheduled appointment.
Grace Anne has a degree in nursing but is currently taking time off from work while she earns her Master’s in Public Health. She says she loves being a part of the St. Luke’s family and interacting with the “many friendly, welcoming and helpful people.”