Lessons For Medical Spanish
As the cultural landscape of the United States of America grows more diverse, more and more people are finding themselves confronted with people in their line of work who have a difficult time with English. While efforts to teach immigrants English have been mostly successful; the fact is that some particularly dire situations do not allow everybody the presence of mind needed to recall languages foreign to them such as English. This is particularly true of the medical field, where a painfully tightened chest or stabbing agony in the stomach can and often will make it difficult for a non-native speaker to recall the exact words they’d need to use to describe a potentially life-threatening problem to a medical professional in a way that is useful for treatment.
With this in mind, many medical professionals, from neighborhood pharmacists to nurses to emergency room surgeons are taking it upon themselves to learn medical terminology in foreign languages to better help patients who may be in too much pain or disorientation to describe what’s wrong in English. Of particular note in the United States is the language of Spanish. Given as a sizable number of newcomers to the United States are natives of Spanish-speaking countries, medical Spanish lessons can be incredibly important for medical professionals of all stripes.
One thing that will be often important is national dialects of Spanish, the prominence of which will likely vary depending on what Spanish-speaking country’s immigrants are most prominent in the practitioner’s region. In the southern and western parts of the United States, this generally means learning Mexican pronunciations of medical terminology, given the prevalence of Mexicans in the region. In the south eastern reaches of the land, particularly around Florida, Cuban pronunciations become more prominent as many native Spanish speakers in this region come from Cuba. Finally, in the north-eastern parts of the country, Puerto Rican pronunciations are most common. However, these are generalizations and certainly not hard and fast rules, meaning that one should be flexible about their learning.
Some terminology is more universal than others if occasionally pronounced differently. Research can be necessary for preparing oneself for dealing with Spanish speakers hurting too badly to recall detailed English. Studying the matter before an emergency is usually the best idea, and there are a many great resources available to medical professionals, ranging from specialized educational courses to local outreach programs intended to help patients and health care providers come together and improve the quality of attention for both. Taking advantage of these programs is usually free, and when it does cost money, it seldom costs very much. Using a network of professional contacts is the best idea for learning medical Spanish as it tends to lower the costs and complications of doing so greatly. There are also some online resources for the study of medical Spanish, but these can fall into a one size fits all mentality, which does not always suit every medical situation a practitioner may find themselves in.
Another fact to consider is the fact that languages aside, many native Spanish speakers also come from a different culture than most Americans. Inside of Latino culture, the relationship between patients and health care providers is somewhat different, and it can be important for medical practitioners to understand what their Latino patients expect from medical practitioners if they are not used to health care in America. While some expectations such as tending to medical problems are a constant, but the type of relationship between Latinos and their health care providers is somewhat different. Earning the “confianza” (and important cultural construct in most Spanish speaking countries) of a Latino patient requires not just knowing enough proper Spanish, but also showing a sincere interest in the patient and their lives, ranging from their work to their family.
As the United States becomes a more global society, some changes are inevitable. While most immigrants from all countries are quite willing to learn about American language and cultural, it can still be hard to recall particular phrasing in the heat of a medical emergency. With this in mind, it behooves everybody involved to be patient and willing to learn for the good of all involved.
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