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September 6, 2006

Resident Physicians' Use of Professional and Nonprofessional Interpreters: A National Survey

JAMA. 2006;296(9):1049-1054. doi:10.1001/jama.296.9.1050

To the Editor: In 2000, the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Civil Rights provided guidance regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964, stating that denial of adequate interpreter services to patients with limited English proficiency is a form of discrimination.1 Insufficient use of professional interpreters and inappropriate reliance on ad hoc interpreters, including children, may compromise quality of care.2,3 However, research suggests that resident physicians rarely use professional interpreters, relying on their own inadequate language skills or on proficient colleagues, or avoiding communication with patients and families with limited English proficiency.4 To better understand training, practices, and problems in caring for patients with limited English proficiency, we conducted a national survey of resident physicians in 2004.