Saturday, January 07, 2006

Lo siento. Yo soy un gringo con educado mal.

The medical staff at the hospital where I worked last summer were a geographically diverse lot. They came from all over the US and even different countries. So while it's understandable that many didn't grow up being exposed to different ethnicities, it still made me chortle when they would mangle the pronunciation Latino names. I'm not talking about saying "AIN-jul" instead of "on-HEL" either. Try and keep a straight face when someone loudly calls out for Mr. PEE-na.

One time a nurse had us all in tears when she recounted her first night of work in Texas. She paged a patient several times before a co-worker explained that the patient's name was probably hey-SOOS mar-TEEN-ez, not GEE-sus MAR-ten-ez. The same nurse later told me about a dream she'd had where she was at work and fluently conversing in Spanish with a patient. Only she didn't understand what she was saying and was concerned that she was giving the patient bad medical information. Aren't work-related anxiety dreams fun?

I took Spanish for my first degree but hadn't used it until I started working at the hospital last May. Even then, I only used a handful of phrases so I could complete the registration process. I doubt I will ever forget the (probably grammatically incorrect) shpiel:

"Hola. Se llamo John. Necessito informacion para registracion, OK? Este es consentimiento para tratamiento. Firma aqui por favor. Bueno. Tiene numero de seguro social? Que es su domicilio?" and so on.

The rapid rise in Spanish-speaking only patients in the state led the Texas Student Nursing Association to pass a resolution years ago calling for nursing schools to require students to take a Spanish for Healthcare Workers class. Most, if not all, accredited programs require it now. I'd planned on taking the immersion course that UT offers during the summer. Students live with a host family in Guadalajara, Mexico while attending Spanish class every day. After several weeks, the students then volunteer in a clinic for further practice.

Unfortunately, I won't have the funds to take that version of the class. I'll have to take the boring regular version on campus this Fall. Como se dice "c'est la vie" en espaƱol ?


  1. I love that the shpiel scripts the conversation down to the "OK?" and "bueno!" level.

  2. To the chagrin of my high school freshman English teacher, OK has been adopted the world over. USA! USA!

    And I just liked throwing "bueno" into the conversation. If I had been more confident, I'm sure "claro" would have made an appearance or two.