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Communication and Language Assistance
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Communication and Language Assistance is one of the standards described in the National CLAS Standards. With such a growing, diverse patient population, it is essential that health care workers are able to effectively communicate with their patients.
This article by Steinberg et al. (2016) looks at the challenges faced by Latino parents with limited English proficiency seeking care for their children. According to the authors, Latino children are more likely to have non urgent emergency department visits, compromised medication safety and are less likely to have timely medical care (Steinberg et al., 2016). Parents are also unhappy with health care services and do not feel that they have good communication with providers.
The article analyzes data from 2 interview studies of Latino mothers. The results describe that the mothers were satisfied with care provided when their language needs were accommodated and they felt familiar with the system. However, any specialty visits or emergency care was unfamiliar and difficult to navigate due to lack of language services (Steinberg et al., 2016).
This article outlines the sad reality that many patients must deal with when navigating the health care system. Medical issues are challenging on their own, without the added stress of confusion and miscommunication caused by language barriers. This information is important to keep in mind whenever caring for and communicating with patients and their family members.
I have often found myself in situations where a language barrier exists between a patient and staff. Regrettably, I did not always use all of the resources available to ensure that the information was being received clearly. Many times we assume that a patient knows what we are saying or that they understand enough to move forward with care. However, even when the main message gets across correctly, there may be many pieces of information that the patient has not heard or understood. The information outlined in this article should motivate all those working in healthcare to utilize the language resources available to them whenever indicated in order to ensure clear and effective communication with all patients. As nurses, it is our duty to advocate for our patients at all times.
Steinberg, E. M., Valenzuela-Araujo, D., Zickafoose, J. S., Kieffer, E., & DeCamp, L. R. (2016).    The “Battle” of Managing Language Barriers in Health Care. Clinical pediatrics, 55(14),      1318–1327.