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N C Med J. 2003 Nov-Dec;64(6):258-62.

Effect of language immersion on communication with Latino patients.

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Department of Pediatrics and Public Health Sciences, Wake Forest University School of Medicine, Winston-Salem, NC, USA.



In the US, the fastest growing segment of the general pediatric population is Latino children. Language barriers may impede optimal care for these patients. Programs are needed to enhance communication effectiveness with Latino patients. We examined the effect of language immersion training for pediatric faculty on their communication with Latino patients.


Five general pediatric faculty physicians were sent to Guatemala for a two-week language immersion course and then had monthly one-hour Spanish language meetings for one year. Before and after immersion, six, and twelve months later, their Spanish skills were assessed. Before and after faculty training, Latino parents of pediatric patients were surveyed to assess their trust in and communication with the attending pediatricians. Spanish survey instruments were pilot tested and revised (trust scale alpha = 0.79; communication scale alpha = 0.80).


Language proficiency increased for all the faculty participants, from a baseline score of 28% to a post-intervention score of 55%, p < 0.001. This increase in proficiency was sustained six and twelve months after the intervention. General linear modeling with repeated measures was used to examine associations between physician, parent, and clinic variables and the doctor-patient communication and patient trust scores. Even though baseline communication and trust scores were high, both improved after the intervention, p < 0.01.


A two-week faculty language-training program can improve physician' language skills, communication, and trust between non-Latino doctor and Latino patient. Other measures of cultural competence should be measured and cost-benefit analyses conducted to assess the impact of immersion versus classroom experience.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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