In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with Dr. Alecia Nero, hematologist and associate professor in internal medicine and pediatrics at UT Southwestern Medical Center, we discuss how to provide culturally sensitive care and overcome language barriers.
Dr. Nero is the Director of UT Southwestern’s Transition Sickle Cell Program and Adult Sickle Cell Program. UT Southwestern is part of the Sickle Cell Disease Clinical Trials Network.
How have you been able to implement culturally sensitive care in your practice?
Dr. Alecia Nero:
“I have not received any kind of healthcare diversity training. But what I do is I approach every patient respectfully, regardless of who they are. And I believe that’s the root of providing culturally sensitive care.
I find it helpful to ask my patients questions and have them guide me on their expectations and boundaries. I think many people trip up feeling like there are too many cultures out there for them to be an expert in them all.
So, I approach every patient with the integrity, respect, and dignity they deserve, which, hopefully, over time, enables me to be more culturally sensitive for my patients.”
How do you deal with language barriers so that they don’t impede your ability to deliver quality care?
Dr. Alecia Nero:
“Fortunately, at UT Southwestern Medical Center, we have an extensive interpretation service, so they have always been able to interpret for my patients when needed.
Unfortunately, some providers do not take the time needed to adequately work with in-person, phone, or video interpretation services. However, regular use of these services in clinical practice could improve the quality of care and patient experience.
Efforts have also been made to include each patient’s preferred language in their medical records. However, sometimes, it’s just assumed that English is a patient’s preferred language. So it’s important that we ask our patients what their preferred language is and take the extra time to provide them with interpretation services if they need them.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.