Biomedical Sciences ETDs

Language barriers impact prehospital care


Ramsey Tate

Publication Date



Emergency medical services (EMS) rely on accurate and efficient communication. The impact of language discordance between EMS providers and their patients on EMS decision-making has not been well-studied, nor have the strategies that EMS providers use to overcome language barriers. This thesis presents a body of scholarly work investigating the prior research on language barriers in the prehospital setting, the application of mixed methods to prehospital research, and the results of an international, multi-site, mixed methods study of the impact of language barriers on prehospital care. EMS providers struggle with a lack of language assistance resources that are appropriate for the fast-paced, rugged environment in which they work and use similar adaptive strategies to communicate with language discordant patients in a variety of contexts. Furthermore, language barriers introduce uncertainty which results in more conservative and resource-intensive decision-making. Future directions for research include developing language assistance resources that are adapted to field use and studying patient- and system-level outcomes related to language barriers.


Prehospital emergency care, emergency medical services, communication barriers, language barriers, interpreter services


Valente Family Fund

Document Type




Degree Name

Biomedical Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Biomedical Sciences Graduate Program

First Committee Member (Chair)

Mishra, Shiraz

Second Committee Member

Moore, Brian

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