Overcoming language barriers in healthcare : a bilingual assessment tool

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Montana State University - Bozeman, College of Nursing


If non-English (Spanish) speaking patients present for care to a rural clinic where the only healthcare providers available do not speak the patient’s language, the potential exists for substandard care and healthcare errors. Providers in rural clinics should have available to them an effective and reliable tool to be used for translating a non-English speaking patient’s health history into English. The purpose of this research was to develop a tool which will translate a Spanish speaking patient’s health history into English. Following a thorough review of existing literature on health history assessment, language barriers in healthcare, translation theory, and assessment tools, a two-part carbonless checkbox format health history assessment form was developed. It was found throughout the duration of this project, that certain limitations exist when attempting to bridge the language barrier. No one tool, with the exception of a provider who is fluent in the patient’s language, can entirely solve the problem of language barriers in healthcare. Further study is needed to hasten the development of additional adjuncts to aid in the provision of care to non-English speaking patients. These further studies and tools will be an invaluable resource to the healthcare industry within the United States.




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