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Overcoming Language Barriers in the NICU

Infants of limited English proficient (LEP) families in the NICU are at risk for poor outcomes and potential medical errors due to language and cultural barriers. Clinician interpretation techniques may fail to consider LEP family cultures and expectations, which have led to disproportionate readmission rates, less time performing skin-to-skin, decreased breastmilk use rates, and patient dissatisfaction. Data have shown that even where professional medical interpreting services are available, they remain underutilized due to apparent lack of time, lack of training, and the normalization of the underuse of interpreters.

The goal of this tip sheet is to enable hospitals to:

  1. Foster a trusting environment between clinicians and LEP families in order to improve infant outcomes.
  2. Minimize medical error and miscommunication.
  3. Better understand cultural differences of LEP families that may potentially affect care.
Resource Category: 
January 2022