Date of Award

Spring 5-6-2022

Document Type

DNP Project

Project Team Faculty Member

Laurie Hopper

Project Team Faculty Member

Amy Shaw


NICU, interpreter, professional interpreter, limited English proficiency, language barriers, communication


Language barriers are common in healthcare settings, creating disparities in care between individuals with limited English proficiency and those with English proficiency. In the NICU setting, professional medical interpreters have been shown to improve parent/staff communication and increase parent satisfaction by allowing parents to ask questions and form trusting relationships with staff. Solid parent-provider communication can result in better health outcomes by increasing parental empowerment and participation in their child’s care. Despite the acknowledged advantages of using professional interpreters in healthcare settings, they are frequently under-utilized, even when readily available. The purpose of this project was to improve communication with limited English proficiency families using professional interpreters in a 65 bed, university-affiliated level IV NICU in St. Louis, Missouri. Practice guidelines and staff education were created based on the results of an extensive literature review. Five (5) limited English proficiency families were identified during the implementation period and all three interpreter modalities (phone, video, and in-person) were used. Barriers to interpreter use were availability of interpreters in the family’s preferred language, families declining an interpreter, lack of time, and uncertainty about how to access an interpreter. Staff members appreciated education on available interpreter modalities and found communication with LEP families to be effective and especially convenient with the newly available video remote interpreting tablet. Daily communication using professional interpreters was improved overall, and NICU staff now recognize it as an essential component of high-quality, family-centered care.

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