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New Bilingual Competency Program will help patients with limited English proficiency 


Raymone Shenouda, MD, medical director, Yale New Haven Hospital Behavioral Intervention Team, Psychiatry, was among those who participated in a successful pilot program for YNHHS’ new Bilingual Competency Program. The program is scheduled to roll out to clinical and non-clinical staff in the coming weeks. 

Yale New Haven Health recently launched a program to help staff effectively communicate with patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) and enhance care quality and patient safety. 

The new Bilingual Competency Program (BCP) is a voluntary test for bilingual physicians and staff members to assess their ability to communicate in a targeted language with patients. The test, which is available in different languages for different roles, was developed by Kaiser Permanente and is the only test validated by The Joint Commission. ALTA Language Services, an independent vendor, administers the test.

YNHHS’ Language Services Department will soon roll the BCP out across the health system, starting with physicians, physician assistants and nurse practitioners, followed by nurses and medical assistants, then non-clinical staff. 

The different groups will receive an email with a self-assessment to determine whether they’re eligible for Bilingual Competency Program certification. Eligible staff will have 30 days to complete the online test, which should take approximately one hour. Physicians and staff who pass will receive a badge reel identifying them as BCP-certified to use a particular language when interacting with LEP patients. Medical interpreters will still be available to physicians and staff if the communication exceeds their level of qualification or abilities.

Before creating the new BCP, YNHHS had a program solely for Spanish-speaking providers. It was not a validated program since everyone, regardless of skill set and profession, took the same test. Physicians and staff who took a test under the previous program must take the new BCP proficiency test to be certified. The Joint Commission and National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Standards state that “healthcare organizations must assure the competence of language assistance provided to Limited English Proficient patients.”

Before launching the new BCP, Language Services conducted a successful pilot program in December 2020 with physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and non-clinical staff.  

Raymone Shenouda, MD, medical director, Yale New Haven Hospital Behavioral Intervention Team, Psychiatry, was among the first providers to take the BCP test in the pilot program.

“At Yale New Haven Hospital, we have nationally renowned providers and clinical teams with diverse cultural and language backgrounds, and we serve a diverse patient population from around the world,” he said. “The Bilingual Competency Program enables our care teams to safely provide excellent, tailored and culturally sensitive care to patients with Limited English Proficiency. This will lead to better clinical care outcomes and patient satisfaction.” 

For more information about the BCP, email [email protected].