I-CAN students placed in Southeast Portland have a focus on immigrants and refugees, most of whom speak a language other than English. Nursing students working on medication reconciliation in the homes of their I-CAN clients noted many medication errors, which caused physical and mental distress, poorer health outcomes and more frequent hospitalizations. Using a population health lens, students examined the causes of these medication errors and realized that their pill bottles had English-only labels which the clients could not read. I-CAN students studied this systemic issue over 8 terms through literature reviews, interviews of clients, prescribers and pharmacists, and many meetings with key stakeholders.
Working with Oregon legislators representing the Southeast Portland community, students and faculty brought a bill to the 2019 legislature mandating that prescription labels be translated into at least 14 languages upon request. SB 698, Safe Medications for All Require Translation, passed with a bipartisan vote in June 2019 and took effect January 1st, 2021.
Three components of the law stem from expertise developed by nurses working in the community and visiting people in their homes:
- The translated label must be on the bottle and not on paper supplements
- English directions need to be on the bottle with the translated instructions
- The 14 languages need to include languages of the most vulnerable populations.
I-CAN students continue to work on issues of outreach with Limited English Proficient communities, Oregon Health Authority and CCOs. They have also developed materials to be shared with other states interested in passing similar legislation.