Pediatric emergency department discharge instructions for Spanish-speaking families

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Pediatric Emergency Care








Interpreter use; Limited English proficiency; Patient-centered communication


Objectives: Patients who speak Spanish are less likely to comply with discharge instructions, adhere to appointments, and take medications than English-speaking patients. However, adherence is improved when discharge instructions are provided in Spanish. This study was designed to assess the frequency of providing written discharge instructions in Spanish to patients who speak Spanish and request interpretation services, and to determine factors associated with receiving written discharge instructions in the preferred language in a pediatric emergency department (ED). Methods: This was a retrospective cross-sectional study of all discharges of Spanish-speaking patients who requested an interpreter in 1 year from a large urban pediatric ED and an associated community ED. Multivariable logistic regression was used to identify patient and visit level characteristics associated with receiving written discharge instructions in Spanish. Results: Sixty-one percent of 11,545 patient encounters where a Spanish interpreter was requested received written discharge instructions in Spanish. Patients aged 1 to 3 years (adjusted odds ratio [aOR], 2.87; 95% CI, 2.18–3.77) and aged 4 to 12 years (aOR, 2.06; 95% CI, 1.6–2.65), those seen without a trainee (aOR, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.25–1.5), and those with low acuity triage levels (aOR, 1.6; 95% CI, 1.29–1.97) were more likely to receive discharge instruction in Spanish. Female patients were less likely to receive Spanish discharge instructions (aOR, 0.9; 95% CI, 0.83–0.97). Conclusions: Discharged pediatric ED patients often do not receive written instructions in the preferred language. Patient and provider factors are associated with receiving written instructions in Spanish. Quality improvement efforts are needed to ensure appropriate language discharge education.