During the pandemic, the workload for healthcare workers has increased along with the stakes for caring for sick people, which is why one local leader has made it his mission to help all patients navigate the healthcare system.
As Director of Customer Relations at Central North Alabama Health Services, Inc. (CNAHSI), Joel Rojas wears many hats. Namely, he serves the Hispanic community by providing translation services between patients and medical providers.
“You’re like the link between the patients and the doctors. It’s like representing each side on a personal level because you’re trying to make sure that they both understand each other and it’s very, very rewarding,” Rojas said.
Rojas knows that navigating the healthcare system in a different language can be daunting at any time, but especially during a pandemic.
“When the pandemic started, I was working there in person and I was there to communicate with the patients and making sure that they were all okay and that they understood the process they had to go through to be able to see the doctor and the new rules we had in place to make sure we were able to provide that care to them in a safe manner,” Rojas said.
Rojas is a native of the Dominican Republic. His dad emigrated to the United States when Rojas was 6 years old, with his mom emigrating when he was 9 years old. He spent years apart from his parents, being raised by his aunts and uncles until he received the paperwork at age 15 to come to America.
Before coming to the United States, Rojas lived in Puerto Rico, where he met his wife. In 2014, they came to America with their oldest child and settled in Alabama. Rojas began working at CNAHSI that same year, holding various positions before his current role.
He says his background allows him to better connect with patients who are separated from their families.
“That helps me be more empathetic with our Hispanic population because most of their family members are still in Central America, South America, or the Caribbean,” Rojas said.
Rojas says one of his biggest accomplishments is earning the trust of his patients and his coworkers throughout his time at CNAHSI. He has been working from home since August to help his son with virtual learning this semester, but he looks forward to seeing patients in person again next year.