Residency-Funded Grant Helps Trainees Support Non-English-Speaking Patients

By Susan Gallagher

Beginning in 2022, the Duke Psychiatry residency program began offering pilot grants to selected residents for projects related to equity, diversity, and inclusion. With this funding, residents Jonathan Nahmias, MD, and Xiomara Nieves-Alvarado, MD, are working to better support patients who have low literacy and patients who do not speak English as a primary language.

Through this project, Nahmias and Nieves-Alvarado aim to implement and evaluate the utility of a visual aid tool for use in psychiatric clinical encounters with these patients. The tool is designed to enhance patient-provider communication and psychoeducation among this population. The project is a continuation of an equity, diversity, and inclusion pilot grant Nahmias and Nieves-Alvarado received in 2022.

They plan to explore the possibility of incorporating this visual aid tool into the electronic medical record (EMR) system so providers can add sketches to the patient’s “after-visit summary” printouts. They anticipate the tool could be used to help patients to describe their current mental health symptoms as well as clarify which symptoms any prescribed medications are expected to alleviate.

Nahmias and Nieves-Alvarado hope this tool will enhance the patient-provider communication and increase medication adherence among patients with low-literacy and/or patients who do not speak English as a primary language.

“I am hoping that we can develop and share a useful tool which can broaden the communication style and facilitate effective encounters between mental health patients and providers.”
— Xiomara Nieves-Alvarado, MD

Tyson Pankey, PhD, MPH, an assistant professor and the associate program director of equity, diversity, and inclusion for education programs, is the faculty mentor for the project.

This article was updated on February 20, 2024.