Infection Prevention Department Displays Navajo Traditions


In this third installment of the interview, managers at Sage Memorial Hospital describe how the OhmniLab robots have become part of their team, complete with Navajo names.

Language can be a barrier in any situation. In an acute care hospital, it can be particularly difficult. While some languages are more common, like Spanish or French, native languages are difficult because few people speak them, and even fewer write them.

A Navajo Woman Looking Down Outdoors in Bright Sun  (Adobe Stock 18061809 by Katrina Brown)

A Navajo Woman Looking Down Outdoors in Bright Sun

(Adobe Stock 18061809 by Katrina Brown)

Nonetheless, a hospital in the Navajo nation has been striving to overcome this language barrier while also respecting and integrating their language traditions into their practice. Infection Control Today® (ICT®) spoke with 2 managers at Sage Memorial Hospital, Navajo Health Foundation, in Ganado, Arizona, to discuss Sage Memorial’s infection control and prevention practices.

In this installment, Christian Bigwater, BSBA, director of public relations and marketing; and Tiyarra Wauneka, environmental services supervisor, discuss how terminal cleans are conducted now with the UV-C robots. Wauneka told ICT that “we are confident that, with our protocols, we are meeting that 99% elimination rate, if not more [with our terminal cleans].”

Another topic Wauneka mentioned is how the infection prevention and environmental staff are working with OhmniLabs on the issue of language for the older workers who don’t speak English well at their facility and other facilities near them. “So [many of the older workers] understand the Navajo language a lot better than they do the English language. So, we asked if we could work with [OhmniLabs] on incorporating the Navajo language into the robot itself…to get the Navajo language as a primary selection for use on the robots.”

In order to help their hospital staff, in addition to adding the Navajo language to the robots, Sage Memorial has also offered a Navajo Medical Terminology & Interpreter Course.

To further incorporate Navajo traditions, each of the OhmniLabs UV-C robots has been given a meaningful Navajo name. “It's very unique that we name all of our equipment here,” Wauneka said. “We've always named a lot of our floor equipment [like] our vacuums; they all have names. So we thought it was a great idea to name our robots. The reason for that is my staff, my environmental service department, we feel that ownership when we take one of our equipment out and use it. In traditional Navajo culture, the teaching is that whenever you have any kind of tool, whether you are a carpenter, a surgeon, or a teacher, whatever tools that you use, you take care of those tools, and they will take care of you back. And so part of naming our equipment is to have that ownership and to create that bond with the tools that we use.”

The 3 names are :

  • So'dootł'izh- "Blue Star"

Represents the bluish light given off by the Robots when it's turned on.

  • Haseya- "I'm Rising"

Any challenge that comes our way, we will always overcome.

  • Naat'áanii- "Leader"

“Our robots are just as part of our team and our family. So they, too, are our leaders. We all see ourselves as leaders,” Wauneka said.

FInding answers to any issue is a group endeavor. “All my environmental service staff [at Sage Memorial Hospital) are leaders with an innovative mindset. We work together to accomplish the goals we set,” Bigwater told ICT.

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