Research Paper Ming-Cheng Lo

Limited English Proficiency and Immigrant Patients’ Experiences
Ming-Cheng Lo (Affiliate in Sociology) with graduate researcher Jaime Becker (Sociology)

While policy makers have promoted the increase of the numbers of minority staff as a useful measure to improve cultural competency at hospitals and clinics, providers’ and patients’ experiences question the rationale of this policy. This project will explore health-care experiences of immigrant patients with limited English proficiency with respect to relying on the cultural competency of minority staff to improve doctors’ cultural sensitivity.


According to Lo’s earlier research, doctors have reported mixed experiences regarding relying on minority staff to improve doctors’ cultural sensitivity. On the other hand, LEP immigrant patients felt that their co-ethnic staff was more likely to exaggerate the social distance between them, compared to their white counterparts. In this project, researchers will conduct a pilot study with nurses in primary care at two teaching hospitals in Northern California who are self-identified as nurses experienced with working with LEP immigrant patients.  Research will be based on semi-structured, in-depth interviews, which will focus on nurses’ experiences of ethnically concordant clinical relationships. My goal is to learn about how structural as well as interactional factors shape these relationships. This research will lay the groundwork for improving access and clinical interactions among immigrant patients.