Being even a Little Bilingual Makes you a Better Health Care Provider!

Posted by National CPR Association | Medical Education Aug 23, 2017

Speaking just a little Spanish could make a huge difference for many of your patients!

Even when surrounded by the best nurses there are, being in the hospital can be a scary thing. The people you encounter are in need of help and comforting. Even under the best circumstances, a patient can feel helpless. Now imagine how much that can be amplified for a patient that doesn’t speak English.

Bilingual Health Care

In most hospitals, translators are available to help bridge the language barrier.  Unfortunately, that isn’t true of every hospital and even when it is, it’s not always available in a timely manner.

 

Sometimes it is useful if you can communicate effectively with even just a few key phrases in Spanish. It’s not realistic to expect everyone to speak fluent Spanish, however it is reasonable to be able to correctly use a few key phrases.

 

Spanish is the second most commonly spoken language in the US. Therefore, the odds are that as a nurse. You are going to encounter a fair portion of patients who only speak Spanish or primarily speak Spanish with just a few English phrases.

 

The problem is, knowing just a few phrases is not going to solve everything. A small mistake in your pronunciation can make a big difference. It’s also not especially easy to listen to a language you understand very little of and understand it clearly and correctly.

 

Ideally, you could ask a battery of questions and understand the responses to them clearly. The reality of the situation is that it’s not going to work out that way. You need to develop coping skills and strategies that make limited conversation as clear and easy to interpret as possible. One method is to phrase every question so that it can be answered with only a response of yes or no, or a clear and affirmative gesture.

 

One such example would be asking is the patient is experiencing pain. A follow up to that would be asking the patient to point to where it hurts. As you likely will not learn the name for all of the body parts in Spanish, pointing is the next best thing in a pinch. There is still room for misunderstanding using a technique like this, and while knowing just a little Spanish could be potentially dangerous, knowing none is far worse.

 

Knowing a few common phrases that you can use with patients can help get the ball rolling when they present for treatment. Here we have compiled several common phrases that will be of the most use to you.

 

Here’s 10 phrases every nurse should know how to say in Spanish:

 

1.) Hello, my name is _____ and I am your nurse.

Hola, cómo está? Mi nombre es _____ y soy su enfermera.

 

2.) Do you understand?

Usted me entiende?

 

3.) Are you in pain?

Tiene dolor?

 

4.) Can you point to where you are in pain?

Puede mostrarme dónde siente dolor?

 

5.) On a scale of 1 to 10, how bad is the pain?

En escala del uno al diez, dígame qué tan malo es su dolor?

 

6.) Do you have any family that you want us to call?

Usted tiene algún familiar a quien podamos llamar?

 

7.) Are you hungry or thirsty?

Quiere usted algo de tomar o tiene hambre?

 

8.) Do you need to use the bathroom?

Necesita usar el baño?

 

9.) It’s time to take your medication.

Es hora de tomar su medicina.

 

10.) Press this button if you need help.

Presione este botón si usted necesita ayuda.

 

If you are looking for additional material to help enhance your knowledge on the subject, we recommend:

– Spanish for Nurses (Third Edition)

– Nursing Spanish Visual Handbook

– Medical Spanish SparkCharts

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