As I mentioned in the last post, we are hard at work on a couple of new studies that will hopefully benefit all teachers and learners of medical Spanish. Last week, I wrote about our study geared towards assessing the strengths and weaknesses of current resource materials. Thank you to those who participated! This week, I would like to describe our main study of which the other one forms a part.
Last week and in other posts, I have mentioned the occurrence of dialect variants in the medical interview and their impact on communication. Due to this, the present study is being conducted in collaboration with the Universidad de Oviedo (Spain) as part of my doctoral dissertation entitled: Spanish Lexical Variation in the United States in the Area of Health and Disease. To give a bit of background, last year we conducted a limited study in North Carolina and Tennessee that revealed that Spanish-speaking patients do not always use standard vocabulary and phrases when communicating in Spanish in the medical interview. Although this does not often hinder communication when both speakers have Spanish as their native language, it has been shown to cause some problems when the patient is speaking to a Spanish language learner. Further exacerbating this situation is the fact that some of the terms collected in the previous study do not appear in many of the dictionaries nor do most Spanish for medical professionals courses teach even the most common variants. For this reason, the purpose of the present study is to examine the language used by Latino patients in the clinic setting, specifically the non-standard vocabulary they produce. The goal is to create a catalog of these variants that includes indicators of their frequency and importance to the doctor-patient communication and that can be used to better design medical Spanish reference materials and Spanish for medical professionals courses.
In order to accomplish this objective, we are asking medical professionals (nurses, doctors, physician’s assistants, physical therapists, mental health professionals, lab techs etc.) and medical interpreters who speak some Spanish and work with Latino patients to complete an online survey. The survey will be open for three months starting February 17th and the professionals can request a print version and complete it or fill it out online at their leisure (saving and returning when it best suits them). There are three main sections in the survey: background information, dialect variants and free response. The background information section gives us an idea of the context where the respondent works and their education in the Spanish language, information that helps in the interpretation of the survey. In the dialect variants section, the survey respondent will be given a list of variants found to have occurred in the medical setting and will simply need to respond to a couple of questions regarding those they have encountered. The third and final section, free response, allows the respondent to add any variants they may have heard that did not previously appear in the survey. Respondents may also provide any comments or feedback in this section.
This survey is limited to those who work in the states of North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. If you are a professional working in one of those states and would like to participate, please contact me and I will send you the link and instructions for the survey. When the study has been completed, I will share the results on this blog. With your help, we hope that our work will ultimately improve in-clinic communication with Latino patients.