As of 2011, 25.3 million people living in United States are limited in English proficiency. This large number of limited English proficiency (LEP) individuals includes Spanish-speakers, which is a large population in the US that continues to grow (Napoles, Santoyo-Olsson, Karliner, Gregorich, and Perez-Stable, 2015). In 2004, thirty-nine percent of Latinos surveyed rated their English comprehension as less than “very good” (Fernandez et al., 2010). Considering these statistics, health care providers will continue to work with more patients from this population and need to be adequately equipped to care for both English and non-English speaking patients, whether it be through the use of interpretive services or by working to becoming qualified as an interpreter. When providers depend on the patient’s limited English and family’s interpretation, this can lead to miscommunication and inaccurate medical history. Cultural miscommunication and language barriers have been linked to preventable adverse events in patients (Johnstone & Kanitsaki, 2006). Even if interpretive services are used, these problems can still exist. Patients may feel uncomfortable disclosing personal information to their health care provider with the interpreter in the room. If the health care provider knows the language, there is the elimination of the third person which can create a more relational environment for the patient and provider. When developing this question, the keywords limited English proficiency, Spanish interpreter services, health care provider as interpreter, and language disparities in healthcare were searched. This project will analyze the efficacy of using ad hoc interpreters such as family members as the interpreter. It is important for healthcare providers to understand that the consequences of a language barrier could include problems such as: lack of a usual source of care, longer waiting time, and poorer outcomes among patients with chronic conditions. As a result of understanding this problem, greater efforts should be made to encourage bilingual staff members to become qualified to serve as interpreters so that they may have direct interaction with their patients. Monitoring and evaluating the efficacy of intermittent interpreter services versus bilingual health care providers would also ensure that continuity of care for patients is made a priority by hospitals and their staff.
Please use this site as a resource for how to best implement care for Spanish-speaking patients in your practice.