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Preparedness of small animal veterinary practices to communicate with Spanish-speaking pet owners with limited proficiency in English

Landau, Ruth E., Beck, Alan, Glickman, Larry T., Litster, Annette, Olynk Widmar, Nicle J., Moore, George E.
Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 2016 v.248 no.6 pp. 690-699
animals, communication skills, compliance, human resources, managers, marketing, patients, small animal practice, surveys, veterinarians, veterinary clinics, United States
OBJECTIVE To investigate the preparedness of small animal veterinary personnel to communicate with Spanish-speaking pet owners with limited English-language proficiency (LEP). DESIGN Cross-sectional telephone survey. SAMPLE Data from 383 small animal veterinary practices. PROCEDURES Telephone surveys were conducted with veterinarians and office or practice managers from a random sample of US small animal veterinary practices in 10 states to estimate the number of Spanish-speaking pet owners with LEP visiting these practices, proportion of practices that used services to facilitate communication with Spanish-speaking clients with LEP, and degree of veterinarian satisfaction with their communication with those clients. RESULTS Responses were obtained from 383 of 1,245 (31%) eligible practices, of which 340 (89%) had Spanish-speaking clients with LEP and 200 (52%) had such clients on a weekly basis. Eight percent of practices had veterinary personnel who were conversant or fluent in spoken Spanish. Veterinarians who depended on clients' friends or family to translate were significantly less satisfied with client communication than were those who could converse in Spanish with clients directly. Availability of Spanish-speaking staff and offering of Spanish-language resources were associated with an increase in the number of Spanish-speaking clients with LEP seen on a weekly basis. Industry- and practice-generated Spanish-language materials were offered at 32% (124/383) and 21% (81/383) of practices, respectively; 329 (86%) practices had no Spanish-language marketing. CONCLUSIONS AND CLINICAL RELEVANCE Opportunities were identified for improving communication with pet owners with LEP in the veterinary clinical setting, which could ultimately positively impact patient well-being and client compliance.