The Parent's Perspective: A Focus Group Study on Spanish Interpreter Services for Hospitalized Children

Ivy Tam, Lauren Gist, Aarti Patel, Erin Fisher, Kyung E. Rhee

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Background: The US Census confirms a rise in Spanish-speakers, many of whom have limited English proficiency (LEP) and require interpreters. Parent perceptions of interpreter services throughout hospitalization are unknown. Objective: To explore Spanish-speaking LEP parents’ views regarding roles of interpreters and providers (attending, resident, or nurse) during a hospital encounter, optimal modalities of interpretation, and barriers to services. Methods: Spanish-speaking LEP parents of children discharged from the hospital medicine service participated in focus groups. Sessions were audio-recorded and transcribed in Spanish, translated into English, and verified for translation accuracy. Qualitative methods were used for thematic analysis. Results: Four sessions (n = 23 participants representing 15 families) were held. Parents felt the interpreter's primary role was to act as a conduit for word-for-word interpretation. They desired kind and trustworthy interpreters with medical knowledge. They saw providers as leaders of the encounter who should allot enough time for interpretation, not use Spanish unless they were fluent, and give frequent medical updates. In-person interpreters were preferred over telephone and video for their ability to convey body language and build relationships. Barriers to requesting interpreters included embarrassment and inability to directly request services, which resulted in using family members as interpreters. On family-centered rounds, parents preferred professional interpreters over bilingual providers. Conclusions: Modifications are required to improve interpreter services to meet the needs of LEP families. Parents emphasized in-person interpreters’ social skills, frequent provider updates, and additional navigation support as essential components of effective care. Next steps include implementing guidelines and interventions to optimize interpreter services.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
JournalAcademic Pediatrics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2022


  • Spanish
  • hospital medicine
  • interpreters
  • limited English proficiency
  • translation

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health


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