Publication Date


Degree Program

Department of Communication

Degree Type

Master of Arts in Communication


Statistical evaluation of the number of Hispanics in the United States in a given year varies. However, all data suggest that the Hispanic population will become the largest ethnic minority in the United States in the new millennium. This research illuminates for health care providers and interpreters cultural factors to consider in the delivery of patient-centered and efficacious care for the ethnic patient, specifically the Latino. The research project answered the question What culture-related factors impact effective communication between Mexican patients and American medical nurses in the Daviess County, Kentucky area? The project focused on the interpersonal aspects of culture and communication that occurred during the communication process of sharing ideas, information, and feelings. Previous studies focused on health care communication cast in the traditions of medicine, psychology and sociology. This project adds research results to a communication process described by clinically based medical journals that only anecdotally refer to communication patterns and concepts. Cultural background may give insight into why and how patients and their family make decisions related to care. By recognizing personal philosophy, values, biases, attitudes and religious beliefs, which are based on culture, a person can facilitate effective communication. This data provides medical practitioners and interpreters insight into the cultural, medical, and communication concepts and characteristics that exist among the Latino patients, the interpreter and themselves. Through this understanding the health care professionals may gain practical application to provide better care and service to Latino patients, enhanced patient compliance, and possibly awareness about themselves and their own worldview. The research provides additional support to Edward Hall's theory that states that the way people act and react during communication is based on past experiences and cultural beliefs. This study, conducted at a local health department, utilized a questionnaire and participant observation based on a new cultural paradigm. The paradigm combines parts of the frameworks established by Harris and Moran (1996) and Kielich and Miller (1996): orientation (ethnic identity), religion, time orientation, relationships (gender, age, status...), language (verbal and nonverbal), education, values and norms, and beliefs and attitudes (especially toward health). The questions also added another component, acculturation. The design involved a written questionnaire for the nurses who provided care through the Green River District Health Department, a written questionnaire in the native language of the Latino patient, a written questionnaire for the interpreter, and participant observation of the medical examination. The research methodology controlled for variability by including only native-born Mexican patients. The project focused on one particular ethnicity with three interpreters and five Mexican patients. This study indicates that several cultural factors impact communication among Latino patients and American medical practitioners. Overcoming the language barrier should be the first step in diminishing the communication gap. However, cultural aspects of communication outlined in the research need addressing to achieve intercultural communication success. The data reveals new ideas for intercultural communication research in the areas of medicine. By combining the disciplines perhaps a better product will be developed—a synergistic approach to health care communication.


Communication | Race and Ethnicity