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Effective communication is crucial in the interaction between a patient and their healthcare provider. For the more than 31 million people in the United States for whom English is not the primary language, some form of interpretation may be necessary to overcome the language barrier in the communication process. In hospitals, effective interpretation can be an issue of life or death. A review of the literature has revealed the rapidly increasing demand for interpretation coupled with gaps in the legislation regarding medical interpretation. As the field of medical interpretation rapidly evolves, medical staffs are still adjusting to the tightening restrictions on the use of ad-hoc (untrained) interpreters. However, effective use of medical interpretation is challenged by a range of obstacles spanning from the identification of limited English proficient (LEP) patients to the issue of payment of the interpreter once their services have been provided. The aim of this study is to understand how Labor & Delivery nurses use interpreter services to address the linguistic needs of Spanish-speaking patients, and what challenges they encounter in the process. Through interviews with nursing staff at Hartford Hospital and ethnographic observations in the Labor and Delivery unit, I hope to gather information to better understand this issue.


Community partner: Hartford Hospital