National Survey of Medical Spanish Curriculum in U.S. Medical Schools.

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Journal of general internal medicine : official journal of the Society for Research and Education in Primary Care Internal Medicine


BACKGROUND: Patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) may be at risk for medical errors and worse health outcomes. Language concordance between patient and provider has been shown to improve health outcomes for Spanish-speaking patients. Nearly 40 % of Hispanics, a growing population in the United States, are categorized as having limited English proficiency. Many medical schools have incorporated a medical Spanish curriculum to prepare students for clinical encounters with LEP patients.

OBJECTIVE: To describe the current state of medical Spanish curricula at United States medical schools.

METHODS: The Latino Medical Student Association distributed an e-mail survey comprising 39 items to deans from each U.S. medical school from July 2012 through July 2014. This study was IRB-exempt.

RESULTS: Eighty-three percent (110/132) of the U.S. medical schools completed the survey. Sixty-six percent (73/110) of these schools reported offering a medical Spanish curriculum. In addition, of schools with no curriculum, 32 % (12/37) planned to incorporate the curriculum within the next two years. Most existing curricula were elective, not eligible for course credit, and taught by faculty or students. Teaching modalities included didactic instruction, role play, and immersion activities. Schools with the curriculum reported that the diverse patient populations in their respective service areas and/or student interest drove course development. Barriers to implementing the curriculum included lack of time in students' schedules, overly heterogeneous student language skill levels, and a lack of financial resources. Few schools reported the use of validated instruments to measure language proficiency after completion of the curriculum.

CONCLUSIONS: Growing LEP patient populations and medical student interest have driven the implementation of medical Spanish curricula at U.S. medical schools, and more schools have plans to incorporate this curriculum in the near future. Studies are needed to reveal best practices for developing and evaluating the curriculum.

Medical Subject Headings

Curriculum; Hispanic Americans; Humans; Multilingualism; Physician-Patient Relations; Schools, Medical; Students, Medical; Surveys and Questionnaires; United States

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