No Habla Espanol

Imagine you are a teenage girl who just underwent a kidney transplant a few months ago. You are readmitted to the hospital because the doctors fear a transplant rejection. Imagine that although the danger of rejection is ruled out, they do decide to run a number of tests because you have a urinary tract infection.

Now imagine going through all of that when you can barely comprehend, let alone speak, English. And your mom understands even less than you do.

That was one of my patients this week. We did have an interpreter for part of the day, but during the procedure to test for reflux (known as a VCUG), no one in the room spoke their language, adding to the emotional and physical stress both patient and mom were experiencing.

Back in high school, I decided to be “out of the box” and take Latin…for six years. Great for my SAT scores, not so great for enhancing my actual communication skills. Then college came and I had an opportunity to choose a language that would be more useful.

German. Smart thinking, Nurse Teeny.

We live in a society that is multicultural, and grows ever more so every day. And whatever the talking heads may say about requiring immigrants to learn English, it matters little when you’re standing awkwardly in a room, trying to educate a family about how important it is that a patient finish her entire course of antibiotics. If our job is to meet patients where they are, that most certainly includes being respectful and aware of cultural and linguistic differences that could affect the quality of care they receive. If we don’t speak the language, we most certainly have an obligation to make sure there’s someone who does.

As for me, I’m looking for ways to learn Spanish. Any ideas?

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