Questions seven and eight deal with the worries and fears a patient may have about his or her illness. These could involve issues such as lost income due to time away from work or the community reaction to a specific health condition. A person’s apprehensions about medical care may also extend beyond the direct results of an illness. Many Latinos/as hesitate before seeking medical care due to cultural factors and a language barrier. Understanding expectations and cultural cues will help patients feel more comfortable in a clinical setting and will decrease the number of those who do not go in at all.
Expectations and Cultural Differences
Latinos/as may hold a number of expectations for their healthcare practitioners. The first is respeto or a mutual respect between patient and practitioner.5 Dress should be professional. The patient should be treated with dignity. A second is personalismo.5 The healthcare provider should be warm, open, and sincere. Third, Latino/a patients may find direct questioning to be abrasive and unfriendly. Consultation and referrals are not always perceived correctly.5 Antidepressants may be viewed as addictive or harmful, so counseling may be a more acceptable option.3 In addition to these, it is important to be aware of cultural values held by a patient. Extended family is very important in some Latino/a cultures. Family should be included as much as confidentiality allows. Along with family, proximity or personal space is often smaller. Touch and gesturing can be more prevalent. A final issue is machismo. This strong sense of masculinity held by some men signifies dignity, strength, honor, and the ability to provide for ones family. Some illnesses may cause a man to feel less masculine which could cause psychological problems. Understanding these cultural values will help ensure quality care.
The Language Barrier
Not only do Latinos/as face the potential clash of cultures, but the practitioner they choose may not speak their language. In these situations, an interpreter can be used to facilitate communication. At times, a family member may serve as translator; however, this could cause problems if the patient wants to keep his or her condition private.18 When using outside help, the person translating should be non-threatening, trustworthy, and fluent in the colloquial expressions of each language.18 In addition to using a third person to communicate, practitioners may also learn parts of the language themselves, especially the vocabulary relating to health and medicine. This allows the practitioner to get an idea of what the patient needs before the interpreter translates completely. With the help of translators and medical Spanish, the language barrier for some Latino/a patients can be partially overcome.
Rachel Sunstrom, a
former student at the
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