Monday, August 11, 2008

Yo hablo Espanol

"Hola. Como esta? Soy Doctora Truong."

I say that one line nearly every hour of everyday that I work. More than half of my patients are Spanish speaking only, so it's a nice way to be thrown into speaking Spanish. Now, that's not to say that I know how to speak Spanish well. The last time that I spoke Spanish, prior to two months ago, was more than ten years ago, in high school. And that's not to say that my Spanish then was good, or even mediocre. So, now, I speak a good amount of Spanish, or at least "vaginal Spanish" (I'm much more comfortable asking, "Tiene sangre por vagina?" than I am about much more ho-hum things). The other day, I realized that a good half of the day, I'm speaking and listening to Spanish. I like it because I think that it's nice to be able to communicate with my patients without using an interpreter (yeah, you can go through the whole argument of "why don't they learn English?" but unless you figure out a way for a laboring woman to learn English when she walks onto Labor and Delivery, I am going to continue speaking Spanish").

One weird side effect of my Spanish speaking is that I have been tempted to write my histories and physicals (H&P's) in Spanish. Many times have I written, "No sangre, dolor, o flujo" and then realized that most people reading the H&P (e.g. medical professionals) are not Spanish speaking. Another weird side effect is that I assume that everyone is Spanish speaking. I even walked into a Bosnian patient's room and was tempted to speak Spanish... I guess my mind just assumed that since they don't speak English, they must speak Spanish.

On a related note, I realized that my medical Spanish is much, much better than my medical Vietnamese. I had a Vietnamese patient yesterday who spoke only Vietnamese and I ended up using the Vietnamese nurse as an interpreter half the time. I mean, when you learn to speak Vietnamese at home, you don't learn phrases like, "How long have you been having contractions?"

All this said, most patients are very appreciative when you speak to them in their native language, especially considering that they are particularly vulnerable when I see them and they just want to feel comfortable (which is hard when you have your legs open for the world to see for hours on end, sorry for the imagery). So, my goal will be to be able to speak Spanish and Vietnamese well enough to not need an interpreter, ever. Then, maybe learn Chinese (yeah, I know it's ambitious).

No comments: