Rebecca M. Waggoner, Nina Harkavy, Lorraine Way, Michelle E. Florido, Adriana Sánchez, Amanda L. Bergner
Professional interpreters are an integral component of healthcare for Spanish-speaking individuals with limited English proficiency (LEP). Research has demonstrated that errors in interpretation are common and can contribute to poor outcomes for Spanish-speaking clients. Providers with some Spanish proficiency may be able to detect clinically significant interpretation errors, potentially limiting negative clinical outcomes and helping to reduce health disparities for clients with LEP. This study aimed to identify the level of Spanish proficiency necessary for genetic counselors to be able to detect a majority of clinically significant errors made by a professional interpreter during a reproductive genetic counseling session. Practicing genetic counselors and genetic counseling graduate students were surveyed regarding their Spanish language background, experience working with interpreters, and self-rated Spanish proficiency. Participants then watched short video clips from three simulated reproductive genetic counseling sessions conducted with a professional interpreter and were tasked with identifying clinically significant interpretation errors. Survey responses were analyzed from 118 participants who met eligibility criteria. Participants who reported “basic” and “fair” Spanish proficiency detected an average of 36.5% and 67% of clinically significant errors, respectively. Those reporting “good” proficiency or higher detected more than 80% of errors. Overall self-rated Spanish proficiency was positively correlated with years of Spanish language education and individual measures of speaking, listening, and reading proficiency, indicating that self-report may be a reasonable measure of proficiency when the goal is error detection in an interpreted session. Genetic counselors with even minimal Spanish proficiency can detect clinically significant interpretation errors, allowing for the correction of these errors during the session. Genetic counselors with “basic” and “fair” may consider genetic counseling-specific Spanish language classes to increase their proficiency to be able to detect a majority of interpretation errors and thereby improve the quality of care and reduce health disparities for Spanish-speaking clients.
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