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Reduce Surgery Cancellation – Use an Interpreter for Pre-screen Interviews

In today’s fast-paced healthcare world, doctors and nurses are always pressed for time, making the need for efficiencies even greater. For example, efficiency can be achieved when patients are able to communicate pre-surgery information during a phone pre-screening, rather than on the Day of Service. However, this means communicating in a patient’s preferred language, which is often not English.
This exact scenario was featured in an article by the Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing. In several facilities where patients are screened in the Preanesthesia department before surgery, phone messages are left for patients asking for callbacks to relay critical information. When hospitals began noting difficulties in contacting non-English speaking patients, Terri Gray, Janey West, and Nancy Nadolsky conducted research into the matter.

After analyzing the preanesthesia services at a Midwestern hospital, the results were as they hypothesized.  “Compared with English-speaking patients, non-English-patients required almost twice as many calls on average to make contact. In addition, non-English-speaking patients were less likely to return telephone calls than were the English-speaking patients. Furthermore, the percentage of Day of Service interviews was higher for non-English-speaking patients compared with English-speaking patients.”

What were the reasons for this? The article notes that the patient’s primary language was rarely documented on the surgical boarding slip, meaning that telephone messages from nurses would be left in English. This would result in collecting critical information on the day of service, possibly leading to delay or cancellation of surgery.

Based on the results of their research, they implemented a strategy to collect language preference during the initial surgical scheduling request and discovered that this best practice could be used to increase communication and efficiency for everyone. “The preanesthesia nurse is then able to conduct the interview in a patient’s native language, or leave a message using the clinical language interpreter or [CyraCom] Blue Phone.”

“Mutual understanding is an imperative function when one enters the health care system and is critical to both obtaining and conveying information… Overcoming these barriers for non-English-speaking patients will help to decrease or eliminate disadvantages at the initial contact.”

We agree wholeheartedly. Thanks for your contributions and keep up the good work


Gray, Terri A., BSN, RN, MEd, CPAN, Janet R. West, BSN, RN, and Nancy A. Nadolsky, RN. “Preanesthesia Screening Phone Messages and Rate of Return Based on the Primary Language of Patient.” Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing 28.1 (2013): 11-15. Print

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