End-of-Life Decision-Making for ICU Patients with Limited English Proficiency: A Qualitative Study of Healthcare Team Insights

Amelia K. Barwise, Christina A. Nyquist, Nataly R.Espinoza Suarez, Carolina Jaramillo, Bjorg Thorsteinsdottir, Ognjen Gajic, Michael E. Wilson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Scopus citations


Objectives: Research indicates that the increasing population of over 25 million people in the United States who have limited English proficiency experience differences in decision-making and subsequent care at end of life in the ICU when compared with the general population. The objective of this study was to assess the perceptions of healthcare team members about the factors that influence discussions and decision-making about end of life for patients and family members with limited English proficiency in the ICU. Design: Qualitative study using semistructured interviews with ICU physicians, nurses, and interpreters. Setting: Three ICUs at Mayo Clinic Rochester. Subjects: Sixteen ICU physicians, 12 ICU nurses, and 12 interpreters. Intervention: None. Measurements and Main Results: We conducted 40 semistructured interviews. We identified six key differences in end-of-life decision-making for patients with limited English proficiency compared with patients without limited English proficiency: 1) clinician communication is modified and less frequent; 2) clinician ability to assess patient and family understanding is impaired; 3) relationship building is impaired; 4) patient and family understanding of decision-making concepts (e.g., palliative care) is impaired; 5) treatment limitations are often perceived to be unacceptable due to faith-based and cultural beliefs; and 6) patient and family decision-making styles are different. Facilitators of high-quality decision-making in patients with limited English proficiency included: 1) premeeting between clinician and interpreter; 2) interpretation that communicates empathy and caring; 3) bidirectional communication of cultural perspectives; 4) interpretation that improves messaging including appropriate word choice; and 5) clinician cultural humility. Conclusions: End-of-life decision-making is significantly different for ICU patients with limited English proficiency. Participants identified several barriers and facilitators to high-quality end-of-life decision-making for ICU patients and families with limited English proficiency. Awareness of these factors can facilitate interventions to improve high-quality, compassionate, and culturally sensitive decision-making for patients and families with limited English proficiency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1380
Number of pages1
JournalCritical care medicine
Issue number10
StatePublished - Oct 1 2019


  • Barriers
  • disparities
  • end-of-life discussions and care
  • facilitators
  • intensive care
  • language barriers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Critical Care and Intensive Care Medicine


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