Objective: Language barriers contribute to suboptimal healthcare delivery. We sought to explore disparities in communication between English and Spanish-speaking parents and their neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) providers.
Study design: We compared English-speaking versus Spanish-speaking parents' understanding of their infant's diagnosis through a structured interview.
Results: Spanish-speaking parents were four times (RR 4.0, 95% CI: 1.5, 11.0; p = 0.004) more likely to incorrectly identify their child's diagnosis than English-speaking parents. Spanish speakers also self-reported lower understanding of NICU interventions. Physicians provided updates to Spanish-speaking parents in their native language only 39% of the time.
Conclusions: Spanish-speaking NICU parents more commonly misunderstood aspects of their child's care than did English-speaking parents. Providers' failed to communicate with Spanish-speaking families in their native language the majority of the time. Additional research is needed to assess the barriers to effective communication between NICU providers and Spanish-speaking parents.