Off topic: An introduction: brand new nurse at 41 damn years old looks for any help with foreign patients.
Thread poster: carene

Nov 6, 2006

I came across this site by chance as I looked for a translation of some words on a cross stitch sewing pattern. The pattern, of a garter, had the words "Honi soit qui mal y pense". This is a quote from Shakespeare's play, The Merry Wives of Windsor (Act V, Scene V).

The information here was, of course, helpful, and led me to look further at this site. Amazing, to say the least!

I am writing this introduction of myself for two reasons. First, to thank those who posted the explanantions of the above quote. Second, to explain why I wish, if I'm able to do so, ask for advice about translation services.

Two months ago I graduated from an accelerated 2nd Bachelor's degree program for Nursing. I got my first Bachelor's degree in 1987. The only language I am fluent in is American English. I did grow up and have lived my life in South Florida, so Spanish is familiar to me, but I can't hold a conversation.

I made the decision to completely change careers at 39 years old, and did not anticipate how often the fact that I didn't speak Spanish, or any other language, would be so detrimental to my ability to care for my patients. I am now 41, and there is no way at this time I can learn to be fluent in another language. I'm still learning how to be a good nurse in my own. I want to, but my brain can only take so much!!

Soon I will have to work as a nurse, not a 'student nurse' and I've seen how horrible it is to have patients that I (and my nurse experts) can't communicate with. The hospital I did my clinical hours at had many patients who were Hispanic, Haitian, and even from places in Central America that spoke a dialect from their area that mixed Spanish and an ancient language from their heritage. We thought it was the Mayan, which we had seen before, but one patient, she spoke a language even the lady from the Mayan center didn't know.

The patient was from a place far in the rainforest, and only her man could REALLY talk to her. And I only know this because I was a student, and had time to sit there awhile...for my paper I had to write. He knew Spanish and a bit of English. It was very odd to talk with him. After I moved and sat on a low chair that he spoke more...when I had to look up at him. I am 5'8" and he was maybe 5'4". His wife was not even 5' tall, and not heavy built even fully pregant.

She gave birth to a healthy boy, and didn't make a single cry during labor. Not a sound, except for heavy breathing, and a very quiet moans, easily mistaken for low speach, or eating sounds.

Of course, this patient was an exception, but too often, I had patients I couldn't communicate at all. Supposedly we have a service we can call, but it's so sporadic in availability I was disgusted with it. Even for a call for Spanish, I couldn't get anyone on the phone, in South Florida, for God's sake!! And yes, there are Spanish speaking nurses, but they have their own patients, and it's not fair to constantly call on them, now is it?? And Haitian Kreole? Good luck...

So, what I want to know any of y'all translator folks think there's a way I can get help. I can't pay a whole lot since I will be a new graduate nurse, and I'm not even sure when I will need help, but I'm open to any suggestions.

I want to be a good nurse, and I don't want my lack of ability in language to prevent me from providing good care, even if I am a brand new nurse at 41 danm years old.

Thanks for any advice, help, ...anything.

Most sincerely and hopefully,

[Título editado por el personal o un moderador 2006-11-06 18:09]

[Subject edited by staff or moderator 2006-11-09 06:10]


Luisa Ramos, CT  Identity Verified
United States
Local time: 01:37
Member (2004)
English to Spanish
Never too late Nov 6, 2006

Hi Caren. First of all, I am sorry for you and especially for your patients. I am not going to pry but since a very long time ago it was evident what would happen in South Florida and how important it was to become bilingual. My son is 31 years old and I remember showing him the Sunday classifieds when he was 4 and telling him he had to speak Spanish at home because his future would be better if he was bilingual.

However, it is never too late to learn and if there is a place with plenty of opportunities to learn Spanish (although not very good Spanish) is Florida, at least South Florida.

On the other hand, I do not know where you study or practice, but I understand almost all decent sized hospitals down here have either paid or volunteer interpreters. At least in Dade and Broward counties.

Please use the link to my profile and drop me a note and I will see if I can help.


Local time: 22:37
Spanish to English
+ ...
Several ideas Nov 6, 2006

Hi Carene,

Since the translator situation is so unreliable, you will just have to learn it yourself. One way to do this would be to spend a vacation in Mexico in one of those intensive programs that includes living with a host family for a couple of weeks.

In the meantime, you could do what my daughter did when learning Turkish: get tapes to listen to in the car while driving to and from work or at home in odd moments (preparing dinner etc.).

Another useful tool would be a phrase card specializing in the terminology of the field you are working in. The patient or a relative could point to the appropriate phrase in Spanish and you could point to an appropriate answer in English so they could read the corresponding phrase in Spanish. It's not great, but better than nothing.

Another possible source of translations would be support staff at the hospital.

But in the end, if you were able to go back and get your degree at 41, you will also be able to learn adequate Spanish, and your patients will love you for it. (By the way, I went back to school to get a teaching credential at age 50, so I know that although we don't learn as fast as we used to at 20, we can learn just as well. It just takes a little longer. My grandmother went to college for the first time at age 55 and made Phi Beta Kappa. Nothing is impossible.)

Go for it!


gianfranco  Identity Verified
Local time: 04:37
Member (2001)
English to Italian
+ ...
You can learn basic vocabulary in a few months Nov 6, 2006

carene wrote:
I am now 41, and there is no way at this time I can learn to be fluent in another language.

Perhaps you may not become fluent in a short time, but you can certainly improve a lot your Spanish in a few months.

As a example that may be comforting for you, I can mention a medical doctor in my town who decided to go to work in Angola for a charity. He attended to a crash course in Portuguese, studied like an obsessed for a month, and left for Angola able to talk about medical things. His teacher told me he was pretty good at learning lists of terms and utter all the basic questions in Portuguese.

Admittedly, Italian and Portuguese are quite close and the pronounciation comes easy for Italians, but you could give yourself 3 to 6 month to learn the essential vocabulary and the essential sentence patterns.

Draft lists for yourself, ask fot help to Spanish speakers (easy to find in Florida) to practice pronounciation, purchase a medical dictionary and extract what terminology you think may come handy to know, learn all body parts, all organs, all common illnesses, all symptoms, etc.
Important, learn to say things using not only technical jargon, but also the common popular word, for helping uneducated people or children (not only stomach but also belly, not only trachea but windpipe, in Spanish of courseicon_smile.gif ), and so on...

Good luck

[Edited at 2006-11-06 22:42]


German to Romanian
+ ...
You can Nov 7, 2006

You can learn Spanish, it is not so difficult. Go do some courses in your free time.
Also if you can get South-American TV chanels, watch telenovelas. They help a lot.
On the other hand I also think that if those patiences are now living in the US, they also should start learning English. They don't need it only in the hospital.
US is a country of high immigration and some nationalities are very much representated, so we could talk there about multiculture and multilingualism, more languages can become national somehow, but native US people can not learn all languages of the world which are being brought by immigrants (like Chinese, Hindi or I don't know).
But immigrants should also learn English.


Thank you all Dec 3, 2006

Thanks so much for all the encouraging replies! Sorry to have taken so long to express my appreciation, but my computer quit working and it took me awhile to fix it. As it turns out dust and dog hair are very bad for computers...can you imagine?? LOL!!! Anyway...I DO so appreciate the advice and kindness. Thank you all!


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