Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Spanish Language Module in a First-Year Pharmaceutical Care Laboratory Course

Academic journal article American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education

A Spanish Language Module in a First-Year Pharmaceutical Care Laboratory Course

Article excerpt


The Hispanic population accounts for 16.3% (50.5 million people) of the US population. (1) It has grown by 43% since 2000, making it the largest ethnic minority in the United States. (1,2) In the Southern United States, the Hispanic population continues to experience wide growth margins in 9 states, including North Carolina. (1,2) A study by the Pew Hispanic Institute showed the majority (77%) of Hispanics are pleased with their health care. (3) However, of the 23% that were not satisfied, poor care was attributed to inability to communicate in English with their provider. These findings are further supported by a 2007 study of elderly Spanish-speaking patients in Boston, where patients felt that limited English proficiency decreased patient care. (4) Outcomes studies have reinforced these findings. A large systematic review of these studies found that lack of bilingual health care providers or trained medical interpreters has negative effects on patient outcomes, including poor adherence to medications, increased medication errors, unnecessary diagnostic tests, and poor follow up after hospitalization. (5) The review also highlighted that using poorly trained or "ad hoc" interpreters, especially children, are frequent reasons for medical errors and poor outcomes. While the exact number of Spanish-speaking health care providers is not known, there are not enough trained providers to match population growth. (6) To close the gap, Spanish culture and language education is needed in health professions schools.

Students and practitioners are interested in receiving Spanish language education. (7-9) The University of North Carolina (UNC) Interdisciplinary Development Committee surveyed 500 health professional students in 2000 and 92% of respondents reported that there was a need for instruction on how to communicate with and appreciate cultural differences in Spanish-speaking patients. (10) Several pharmacy, nursing, and medical schools have implemented successful elective courses in Spanish culture and language for their students. (11-17)

In light of the 2000 UNC study findings and in order to better meet the needs of students and patients in North Carolina, 2 curricular changes were instituted at UNC Eshelman School of Pharmacy starting in 2008. The Curriculum Committee approved for students to receive credit for the Spanish for Health Care Professionals elective courses (introductory, intermediate, and advanced) offered by the UNC School of Public Health. Also, a Spanish language module was created for the required first-year Pharmaceutical Care Laboratory I course. We conducted a 6-week study to assess the effects of incorporating Spanish language lectures and activities on first-year pharmacy students' perceptions of and comfort level with Spanish-speaking patients.


Study participants included first-year PharmD candidates enrolled in the Pharmaceutical Care Laboratory I course in fall 2008 and fall 2009 on the main (Chapel Hill, NC) and satellite (Elizabeth City, NC) campuses. Following participation in the Spanish module, we anticipated that students would develop:

* enhanced cultural competence with regard to Spanish-speaking patients

* increased confidence and competence in communicating basic pharmacy information to Spanish-speaking patients

* increased interest in pursuing further educational opportunities to learn and apply medical Spanish

Because of the brief and elementary nature of the module, students were not expected to be fluent in Spanish after completing it. Students were required to purchase Essential Spanish for Pharmacists, second edition, by Glenn L. Kisch. (18) This pocket guide provides translations of common pharmacy phrases from English to Spanish and vice versa. Additionally, a course teaching assistant developed a quick reference chart of Spanish phrases commonly used in community pharmacy practice, and this was provided as a secondary reference for students. …

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