Introduction: Language and cultural barriers are detriments to quality health care. In acute medical settings, these barriers are more pronounced, which can lead to poor patient outcomes.
Materials and methods: We implemented a longitudinal Spanish-language immersion curriculum for emergency medicine (EM) resident physicians. This curriculum includes language and cultural instruction, and is integrated into the weekly EM didactic conference, longitudinal over the entire 3-year residency program. Language proficiency was assessed at baseline and annually on the Interagency Language Roundtable (ILR) scale, via an oral exam conducted by the same trained examiner each time. The objective of the curriculum was improvement of resident language skills to ILR level 1+ by year 3. Significance was evaluated through repeated-measures analysis of variance.
Results: The curriculum was launched in July 2010 and followed through June 2012 (n=16). After 1 year, 38% had improved over one ILR level, with 50% achieving ILR 1+ or above. After year 2, 100% had improved over one level, with 90% achieving the objective level of ILR 1+. Mean ILR improved significantly from baseline, year 1, and year 2 (F=55, df =1; P<0.001).
Conclusion: Implementation of a longitudinal, integrated Spanish-immersion curriculum is feasible and improves language skills in EM residents. The curriculum improved EM-resident language proficiency above the goal in just 2 years. Further studies will focus on the effect of language acquisition on patient care in acute settings.
Keywords: Spanish; emergency medicine; graduate medical education; immersion curriculum; language.