Video helps newcomers navigate the Emergency Department at St. Joseph’s Health Centre


To help educate newly immigrated community members on accessing emergency department services, St. Joseph’s Health Centre, Toronto, recently launched the Emergency Department Navigational Video. With versions in six languages, this new video provides an overview on what patients can expect when receiving care at St. Joseph’s Emergency Department (ED)

“St. Joseph’s is a community teaching hospital in Toronto serving many diverse communities and a high population of newcomers and refugees,” explains Silvana Biscaro, Director, Emergency and Critical Care Program. Since the Emergency Department is the first point of entry to the health-care system for many newcomers living in our surrounding communities, St. Joseph’s has made a commitment to establishing collaborative relationships with newcomer populations and community service providers to ensure we can meet their unique needs. “The spirit of this video is that we want to target those populations that really need this type of support,” said Biscaro.

This project has spanned over the last 18 months, and while it was a lengthy process, it was necessary to ensure the project would be successful, said AnnMarie Marcolin, Manager, Community Engagement and Urban Health, who managed the development process.

“We started with a consultation and an engagement process with representatives from 15 community services providers in our catchment area that work closely with newcomer populations. We wanted to hear from our community partners with respect to how we are doing (as a hospital) in reaching out (to these populations), and to see if they had any recommendations on what we could do,” said Marcolin. It was recommended that St. Joseph’s develop a practical and educational tool that could assist newcomers with their initial experience in navigating through our ED.

Using this feedback and working together with an internal advisory group, including hospital staff and an external community lead, Andre Wagner (a Case Manager with Community Resource Connections of Toronto) it was decided that a video would be a realistic and tangible tool to create and something that would be very useful for all populations. Wager shared that, “the navigational video would not only offer good practical information, it would also say something else just as important to newcomer communities – at St. Joseph’s we care about your needs and we are here for you when you need us.”

Once the plans for the video were in place, a request went back out to community service providers for their ongoing involvement specifically in developing the script and creating the video itself. Rosa Garcia, who works with St. Stephen’s Community House, was brought on board to write the script for the video and Paolo Salomao was hired on as the videographer for the project. They worked together with St. Joseph’s advisory committee, toured the ED and using information from the consultation process and research that was done, created a draft script.

“Once the script was created, we used census data, our internal requests for interpreter services statistics and advice from our hospital staff (specifically our Women’s Health Centre) and community partners including Access Alliance Multicultural Health and Community Services (truly a leader in serving newcomer and refugee populations) on what languages they would suggest we focus in on,” said Marcolin. Realizing that there were limitations to the number of languages the video could be translated into, resources were pulled together to create audio in Spanish, Portuguese, Mandarin, Cantonese, Tibetan, as well as English. Focus groups with individuals representing these ethnic backgrounds were consulted to provide feedback on the script, specifically on key messages they felt were important to communicate to newcomers.

“The intent of the video was certainly to meet the needs of the newcomers but to also include some of the messages from the organization and our ED that we felt were instrumental and that we wanted to communicate,” said Marcolin. Messages such as our Emergency Department is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week, that we provide care to all individuals, a description of the staff that work in the department, that patients can ask to have care delivered to them in their home language, the registration process and how and when to access the ED were all very important to include.

The video will also help staff working in many settlement agencies located in St. Joseph’s catchment area to educate newcomers, since health care is one of many issues of concern for immigrants. “(Health care) may not necessarily be an initial priority but once somebody gets sick, it becomes a huge first priority. So this (video) will really be a useful tool to show individuals who live in our community what they can expect to experience when they come to our Emergency Department,” said Marcolin.

St. Joseph’s Emergency Department Navigational Video can be viewed on our website at