Common phrases and questions every nurse should know in Spanish to break the language barrier.
Let’s face it, no matter how comforting you may be as a nurse, spending time in a hospital can be a scary experience for your patients. Clearly, they are there for an unfortunate reason and are in need of help. Oftentimes, they can feel helpless and uninformed, both terrifying under these circumstances. And when a patient doesn’t speak English, that fear is immensely amplified.
Ideally, your hospital will have a translator on-site that can help break that language barrier. Unfortunately, that isn’t always an option, and it’s important to know how to handle the situation should that be the case. Nobody is suggesting you become fluent in multiple languages, that’s just not realistic. However, you are more than capable of learning a few common medical phrases in a different language that might come in handy.
In the United States, Spanish is the second most spoken language (behind English) by a relatively wide margin. Therefore, if you are ever dealing with a patient who doesn’t understand English, odds are that he/she does, in fact, speak Spanish.
It should be noted that diffusing these situations entirely is much more complicated than just knowing a few phrases. A simple mistake in pronunciation can make a huge difference between what you think you are saying and what you are actually saying. Also, being able to listen and comprehend what is being said in Spanish is another obstacle that is difficult to overcome – and potentially dangerous if you hesitantly try.
In a perfect world, you will be able to ask a variety of questions and understand their responses. However, that’s just not practical, and you need to know how to adapt and use the skills you have at hand in order to alleviate the confusion. Try and keep all of your questions to yes or no answers in order to limit the likelihood of miscommunication. If that isn’t an option, ask your questions in a manner that can be answered with simple, direct responses, or even through non-verbal communication.
For example, if you are trying to determine where the patient is in pain, instead of asking them what hurts, ask them to point to where it is that they are in pain. Again, in an ideal world, you would know all the body parts in Spanish and would be able to hold a conversation with the patient, not to mention that pointing doesn’t always lead to a definitive prognosis. That having been said, while merely knowing a little Spanish may be dangerous, not knowing any at all is even more dangerous.
There is no harm in learning how to say a few phrases that you typically say to patients. Thankfully, we’ve compiled a list of those phrases for you.
Here are 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?
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 medicine."
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:
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