Living in the southwest, we have a huge number of spanish speaking patients.
Learning the basics has been quite helpful for me, too. I can now get through most of the important things on an admission and get through most procedures (iv starts, etc) and general labor and delivery.
However, there is some risk involved in not getting a translator-or even in using a non-certified one. Suppose you use a family member and that family member misunderstands you, and conveys the wrong message to the patient? Or, your pt. misunderstands your broken spanish? If there were to be a bad outcome because of it, I'm sure their lawyer would love to hear that you didn't obtain a proper translator. Patients also do not always answer in truth when it comes to sensitive questions if translated by visitors. It does put us in a tough spot!
In the hospital I was trained at, they were working on getting 24 hour in-house coverage for spanish translation. The translator was shared between L+D and the ER. That was pretty handy-but the translator wasn't always readily available. Obviously, if something big is going on in the ER, that takes precedence over just another delivery...But it did help to have an actual "Spanish Translator," that we weren't constantly having to look for someone who speaks spanish, who then has to take time from their own job to translate.
At the last hospital I worked at, we have access to a "CyraCom" phone-which is a phone used specifically for translation. Anyways, it has 2 receivers. You plug it in to the phone jack in the patient's room, pick one receiver up, access the service (MANY different languages are available), and you are connected to a translater. They give you an ID number which you then write in your notes ("Admission H+P completed, as translated by cyracom rep#..."). Then, you give the second receiver to the patient. And you actually have an official translation session going! I like it, other than the extra time taken-figure it will take twice as long as it would for you to do for your english-speaking patients. Usually, when I admit a pt, I will cover EVERYTHING that I can think of in one translation-from admission paperwork to consents to plan of care (including possible use of pitocin, ivs, etc.) and pain management.
The service really is handy. Maybe you can suggest it to your manager??? The do have a website: http://www.cyracom.net.
I'm sure there are probably other companies out there as well.