In this MD Newsline exclusive interview with neurologist Dr. Mitzi Williams, we discuss how to provide culturally sensitive care and overcome language barriers.
How have you been able to implement culturally sensitive care in your practice?
Dr. Mitzi Williams:
“As a person of color, I have experienced some of the issues that my patients experience in terms of going to the doctor and experiencing bias. So, it’s easy for me to empathize with and relate to my patients and provide them with culturally sensitive care.
In my own practice, there have been several instances where patients reported symptoms to me that might have seemed like there was something psychological going on, but when I listened to them, and believed their symptoms, and investigated them appropriately, they actually did have pathology going on that was very disabling to them.
And I think we have to recognize that oftentimes, when people come to the doctor, for some reason, they’re in their best shape. They’re feeling well, and they’re not having those problems that they have at home. And so we have to recognize that when people are under their regular circumstances and stressors and engaging in their regular activities, some of those symptoms can present, and we need to investigate them.”
How do you deal with language barriers so that they don’t impede your ability to deliver quality care?
Dr. Mitzi Williams:
“So I think that the most important thing in overcoming language barriers is making sure that we have adequate interpretation. We have to have a family member there that speaks the language, an in-person interpreter, or a phone interpreter. Because sometimes there are patients who speak a little bit of English, and you may think that you can get through that visit, but they really don’t understand most of what you’re saying.
So, I think it’s important not to gloss over that and take the extra time to get the appropriate interpretation so your patient can have a full understanding of what’s going on and what the plan is so you can also have a full understanding as a provider of what the issues are that brought your patient in to see you.”
Responses have been condensed and lightly edited.