Archive for August, 2014

Healing starts with communication

posted on August 29, 2014

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer



Spanish medical communication instructor Miriam Amor in class, 1974.

Kaiser Permanente has long been a health care innovator. The KP health plan, which served an ethnically diverse population as far back as the WWII shipyards, has always been aware of the need for what is now called “culturally competent care.”

The article “Clases de Espanol en Santa Clara” in the November 1, 1974 employee newsletter KP Reporter described one such program:

“La medicina que estoy tomando para mi condicion no me esta ayudando,” says the woman to a pharmacist. “Que es la resulta de mis rayos equis?” asks a patient of a technician. “No me siento muy bien, me siento enfermo,” a child tells a receptionist.

Do you know what these people are saying? “The medicine I am taking for my stomach condition is not helping”; “What is the result of my X-ray?”; “I am not feeling well, I feel ill.”

These and many more equally important me ages are spoken daily by Spanish-speaking Health Plan members at the Santa Clara Medical Center. Many Mexican Americans who are multilingual may still be unable to express or understand a crucial medical word or phrase. This can be annoying and time consuming to employee but dangerous to an anxious patient.

Communicative Spanish for Medical Personnel, Spanish 50, is the KP Department of Education and Training’s attempt to help the staff communicate inSpanish taught by Mrs. Miriam Amor of West Valley College. It is one of six college-credit courses being offered this semester at Santa Clara by the Department of Education and Training under Lorraine Brobst.

Ms. Brobst observed: “Almost every department that comes in contact with patients has someone in the class – Reception, Central Appointment, and this department, as well as Nursing, a psychologist and a doctor.”

Southern California’s KP facilities needed multilingual services as well. A 1975 issue of their member newsletter Planning for Health describes a similar commitment to language training:

Off-duty employees at Bellflower Medical Center are taking part in a beginning Spanish conversation course in order to improve communication with Spanish-speaking patients. According to Robert Essink, assistant hospital administrator, “Accessibility of care can be improved by better communication. The purpose of the course is to develop a basic understanding of conversational Spanish, with emphasis on medical phrases.”

In addition to the language class, emphasis is on placing Spanish-speaking personnel at key patient contact positions throughout the medical center, and providing Spanish language instructional and procedural signs.

In the current epoch, Federal law – and common sense – requires that patients with limited English proficiency have access to linguistic services at each point of contact in a health care system. To address that challenge, Kaiser Permanente established a “Qualified Bilingual Staff Model” that identifies bilingual staff members of all types (including doctors, nurses, medical assistants, and receptionists), assesses their language skills, and provides them with comprehensive training based on their level of linguistic competency.

As of 2014, over 11,400 staff members in all seven KP regions have trained in the award-winning program (among other kudos, in 2005 it won the Recognizing Innovation in Multicultural Health Care Award from the National Committee for Quality Assurance and was the core program noted in Kaiser Permanente’s 2013 Corporate Leadership Award from the Migration Policy Insitute).

Clear communication about health care is a crucial first step toward a successful outcome – and a challenge taken seriously by Kaiser Permanente from its inception.

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Building history like building ships

posted on August 22, 2014

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


Fore 'n' Aft, 1943-05-21, RMH

Fore ‘n’ Aft, May 21, 1943; click on image to see full issue PDF

During World War II, Henry J. Kaiser brought efficiencies to the shipbuilding industry such as prefabrication, vendor collaboration, and just-in-time inventory control. Fast forward to the present era where Kaiser Permanente Heritage Resources began digitizing the weekly Richmond shipyard newsletter Fore ‘n’ Aft.

Many of the articles in this blog draw deeply from that well. At the peak of shipyard employment in 1944 some 80,000 copies of the free newsletter were distributed, reaching 90 percent of the workforce. It was a key part of the shipyard community, and the wide range of content included welding suggestions, news of launchings, cartoons, shopping and cooking tips, labor news, classified ads, and a complaint column.

The problem was that our archive only held some of those published, limiting our ability to thoroughly research that vital period. We had 78 issues, and at least 170 more had been produced.

Our solution? Collaboration with community partners and judicious use of specialized vendors.

Fore 'n' Aft, 1945-03-30, RMH

Fore ‘n’ Aft, March 30, 1945, with article “Family Health Plan Opened Wide”; click on image to see full issue PDF

We knew that the Richmond Museum of History held the most complete set of Fore ‘n’ Afts around, but initial inquiries stumbled over cost and access. However, subsequent negotiations with the RMH yielded a true win-win situation. They would provide us the issues we were missing at no cost, and we’d pay to digitize them. The resultant set of all files would be shared by both. In addition, we agreed to share a research set with a mutual partner, the National Park Service’s Rosie the Riveter WWII Homefront Memorial Park visitor center. Among other gems, the RMH is steward of the S.S. Red Oak Victory, launched on November 9, 1944 and the only remaining Kaiser Richmond shipyard vessel that is being restored.

Fore ‘n’ Aft was printed in two formats between 1941 and 1946; some were saddle stitched magazines and some were larger (and cheaper) tabloid newspapers. The smaller format was sent to a local vendor, and the tabloid issues were digitized at the author’s studio (four years ago I shot 24,000 posters for the Oakland Museum of California). The resulting PDFs were processed for optical character recognition to allow full-text searching.

The resulting digital collection contains almost all of the published issues, and for the first time these materials can be accessed through comprehensive text searching.

Partnership + collaboration = community benefit.


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Shipyards, newsletters, and kittens

posted on August 14, 2014

Lincoln Cushing, Heritage writer


With the advent of social media, it’s become a joke with some truth that any video featuring a dancing kitten will go viral. Media savant Ben Huh of the Cheezburger Network described the universal appeal of cats and kittens in a recent interview: “We have created weapons of mass cuteness…”

But these critters were used as media bling long before the Internet was invented. Back when “viral” meant measles, the World War II Kaiser Richmond shipyards produced the vibrant weekly magazine Fore ‘n’ Aft. As you can see from these clippings, kitties held their own along with welding production tips and ship launching news.

Kaiser Permanente – creating cutting-edge media since 1941.

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"No 'struggle' for existence." Fore 'n' Aft 6/18/1942

“No ‘struggle’ for existence.” Fore ‘n’ Aft 6/18/1942

"Kitten on the keys," Fore 'n' Aft 6/29/1945

“Kitten on the keys,” Fore ‘n’ Aft 6/29/1945

"Kittens on the keys," Fore 'n' Aft, 7/30/1942

“Kittens on the keys,” Fore ‘n’ Aft, 7/30/1942