According to coverage at MSNBC, a new study found that a lot of doctors in residency may be overestimating their foreign language skills.

Of the 76 pediatric doctors-in-training, almost two thirds were willing to use Spanish with their patients, a number that dropped to 51% once they were tested on their Spanish skills.

Dr. Casey Lion, a pediatrician at the University of Washington in Seattle and lead author of the study, believes “they don’t want to have to speak through somebody else” since they don’t want to give up on building a rapport with their patient.

But not using an interpreter can at times lead to “clinical consequences”, e.g. due to misinterpretations. This is why her opinion on this issue is pretty much in line with that of Dr. Francesca Gany, chief of the Immigrant Health and Cancer Disparities Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York, who says: “The bottom line is that people should be tested to see if they should even see patients without an interpreter.”

What Lion emphasizes to incoming residents is: “It’s OK to use (less advanced) language skills… as long as you have an interpreter present.”

Gany advised that here are a number of reasons not to use family members as interpreters — including confidentiality and privacy.

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