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U.S. medical school curricula on working with medical interpreters and/or patients with limited English proficiency

Authors Himmelstein J, Wright WS, Wiederman MW

Received 1 June 2018

Accepted for publication 24 July 2018

Published 28 September 2018 Volume 2018:9 Pages 729—733

DOI https://doi.org/10.2147/AMEP.S176028

Checked for plagiarism Yes

Review by Single-blind

Peer reviewers approved by Dr Robert Robinson

Peer reviewer comments 2

Editor who approved publication: Dr Anwarul Azim Majumder


Jessica Himmelstein, William S Wright, Michael W Wiederman

Department of Biomedical Sciences, University of South Carolina School of Medicine Greenville, Greenville, SC, USA

Purpose: The United States has an increasing population of individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). Language access is a right for individuals with LEP in the health care system. As such, it is important for medical providers to be appropriately trained to work with individuals with LEP. Therefore, the purpose of this study was to describe curricula offered by United States medical schools to teach medical students to work with medical interpreters and/or patients with LEP.
Methods: An electronic survey was sent in March 2017 to administration at the 147 Liaison Committee on Medical Education® accredited medical schools as of November 7, 2016. The survey consisted of the following question: “As part of your medical school’s curriculum, are students provided specific instruction addressing how to work with medical interpreters and/or patients with limited English proficiency (LEP)?” with different follow-up questions for schools that responded “Yes” vs “No”.
Results: Responses were received from 26% (38/147) of medical schools. Among schools responding to the survey, 76% (29/38) offered a curriculum that provides instruction of how to work with medical interpreters and/or patients with LEP. Of schools that provide instruction, teaching methods included didactic sessions (34% [10/29]) and standardized patient experiences (34% [10/29]). In addition, 76% (22/29) offer training in the first 2 years of medical school and 28% (8/29) offer training in the third and fourth years of the curriculum. Sixty-two percent (18/29) of respondents that offered a formal curriculum have been administering a formal curriculum for ≤10 years.
Conclusion: The majority of the responding medical schools offer formal instruction of how to work with medical interpreters and/or patients with LEP. Most schools started this type of instruction in the last 10 years with most instruction occurring in the first 2 years of an undergraduate medical curriculum.

Keywords: health resource, culturally competent care, health services administration, education, survey

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