Sharing Best Practices for Effective Multilingual Communication in Healthcare
The term Hispanic is commonly used in the United States to refer to individuals who are of Central or South American origin, as well as people from some Caribbean islands. Hispanic culture varies significantly between countries, but it’s true that some cultural values are common to all Hispanics. Understanding these values can help healthcare providers establish an environment of mutual trust and foster relationships that will be important for the long-term care of patients with Low English Proficiency.
Common cultural values within the Hispanic population that will be relevant in medical encounters are: simpatía, respect, personalism, and familism.
A Spanish-speaking patient is likely to avoid hostile confrontations or any other negative interaction in an uneasy social situation. They will usually desire to have pleasant, smooth and extremely polite social interactions. Engaging in small talk, providing complimentary medical samples, and making educational materials available in Spanish are effective ways to express simpatía and establish rapport. The patient will feel the doctor cares about them and may refer to the doctor as "muy simpatico," a person who is approachable, shows respect towards others, and values harmony in interpersonal relationships.
Medical providers should be aware that sometimes Hispanic patients disagree with the medical advice provided, but it may still appear that they agree. They are simply avoiding confrontation or showing respect.
Hispanic people show special deference towards older people, people with more education or authority figures. Healthcare providers are respected for their education and training. Hispanic patients rarely ask questions because this can be perceived as challenging the doctor’s opinion. Don't assume the patient understood everything just because the patient didn't have any questions. Make sure to provide detailed information and examples they can use to relate to your instructions.
Hispanic people often forge close, warm relationships and develop group interactions that are nurturing, loving and supportive. They have a high sense of solidarity and generosity toward their friends, and highly value a sense of mutual trust (confianza). Hispanic patients appreciate warm expressive interactions and doctors that express interest in their personal feelings. Doctors may receive limited answers to their questions that stay carefully within social boundaries if they fail to earn the patient’s trust or provide a nurturing environment during the clinical encounter.
There is a strong attachment among members of Hispanic families; there is a sense of obligation, reciprocity and loyalty. Nuclear and extended families often share economic and emotional support during difficult times. Hispanic patients rely on family opinions and may bring a family member for support during a medical consultation. Doctors should allow family participation to increase patient comfort, and therefore compliance. Family influences the decision-making process while providing reassurance and a positive outlook when receiving negative news.