Clinical spanish use and language proficiency testing among pediatric residents

K. Casey Lion, Darcy A. Thompson, John D. Cowden, Eriberto Michel, Sarah A. Rafton, Rana F. Hamdy, Emily Fitch Killough, Juan Fernandez, Beth E. Ebel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Scopus citations


PURPOSE: To describe patterns of clinical Spanish use by pediatric residents, and to compare self-assessment of language proficiency against an objective language test. METHOD: In 2010, the authors e-mailed a survey to all 247 pediatric residents at three institutions, inviting those with any level of Spanish language ability to participate. Participants completed a survey reporting Spanish proficiency, interpreter use, and comfort using Spanish in a range of clinical scenarios. Clinical scenarios were grouped and analyzed by degree of complexity. Self-reported Spanish proficiency was compared with tested proficiency, as measured by a 20-minute telephone assessment of general language ability. Scores were categorized as not proficient, proficient, and highly proficient. RESULTS: Of the 247 residents, 78 (32%) participated, self-reporting a range of Spanish skills; 23% of those reported spoken proficiency (proficient or fluent). Participants at all levels of proficiency reported using Spanish without interpretation, including 63% of those who were not proficient. The majority (56%) of nonproficient residents reported comfort using Spanish in straightforward clinical scenarios, and 10% reported comfort in clinical scenarios with legal implications. Self-reported proficiency had a positive predictive value of 67% for testing at a proficient level and 22% for testing at a highly proficient level. CONCLUSIONS: Regardless of level of Spanish proficiency, pediatric residents provide clinical care to patients in Spanish. Self-reported Spanish proficiency does not reliably predict tested ability, especially when using stringent criteria to define proficiency. Provider language credentialing is an important step in implementing a policy to improve care for limited English proficiency patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1478-1484
Number of pages7
JournalAcademic Medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 2013
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Education


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