Communication With Limited English-Proficient Families in the PICU

Adrian D. Zurca, Kiondra R. Fisher, Remigio J. Flor, Catalina D. Gonzalez-Marques, Jichuan Wang, Yao I. Cheng, Tessie W. October

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

38 Scopus citations


OBJECTIVE: Health care disparities have been described for children of limited English-proficient (LEP) families compared with children of English-proficient (EP) families. Poor communication with the medical team may contribute to these worse health outcomes. Previous studies exploring communication in the PICU have excluded LEP families. We aimed to understand communication experiences and preferences in the 3 primary communication settings in the PICU. We also explored LEP families' views on interpreter use in the PICU.

PATIENTS AND METHODS: EP and Spanish-speaking LEP families of children admitted to the PICU of a large tertiary pediatric hospital completed surveys between 24 hours and 7 days of admission.

RESULTS: A total of 161 of 184 families were surveyed (88% response rate); 52 were LEP and 109 EP. LEP families were less likely to understand the material discussed on rounds (odds ratio [OR] 0.32, 95% confidence interval [CI] 0.11-0.90), to report that PICU nurses spent enough time speaking with them (OR 0.15, 95% CI 0.05-0.41), and to report they could rely on their nurses for medical updates (OR 0.07, 95% CI 0.02-0.25) controlling for covariates, such as education, insurance type, presence of a chronic condition, PICU length of stay, and mortality index. LEP families reported 53% of physicians and 41% of nurses used an interpreter "often."

CONCLUSIONS: Physician and nurse communication with LEP families is suboptimal. Communication with LEP families may be improved with regular use of interpreters and an increased awareness of the added barrier of language proficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)9-15
Number of pages7
JournalHospital Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Pediatrics


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