Missed Opportunities when Communicating with Limited English-Proficient Patients During End-of-Life Conversations: Insights from Spanish-Speaking and Chinese-Speaking Medical Interpreters
Silva, M.D.; Tsai, S.; Sobota, R.M.; Abel, B.T.; Reid, M.C.; Adelman, R.D.
Journal of Pain and Symptom Management 59(3): 694-701
Research has shown that using medical interpreters in language-discordant patient-provider encounters improves outcomes. There is limited research evaluating the views of medical interpreters on best interpreter practices when they are used to break bad news or participate in end-of-life (EOL) conversations. To develop insights from medical interpreters about their role when interpreting discussions regarding EOL issues, identify practices interpreters perceive as helping to improve or hinder patient-provider communication, and obtain suggestions on how to improve communication during EOL conversations with Spanish-speaking and Chinese-speaking patients. Semistructured interviews were conducted with Spanish or Chinese medical interpreters. Participants were recruited until thematic saturation was reached. Twelve interviews were conducted, audiotape recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using standard qualitative methods. Six major themes were identified: medical interpreters' perceived comfort level during EOL interpretation; perception of interpreter role; communication practices perceived as barriers to effective communication; communication practices felt to facilitate effective communication; concrete recommendations how to best use medical interpreters; and training received/perceived training needs. Medical interpreters provide literal interpretation of the spoken word. Because of cultural nuances in Chinese-speaking and Spanish-speaking patients/family members during EOL conversations, medical interpreters can translate the meaning of the message within a specific cultural context. Conducting premeetings and debriefings after the encounter are potentially important strategies to maximize communication during EOL conversations.