This document was created at the request of a Physicians Free Clinic volunteer who wanted help evaluating the visual health of patients who spoke Spanish. I created this document by visiting the Optometry section of the clinic for three weeks. I learned how the optometry section operated and the intake process at the front desk. I also learned how to conduct an eye exam. I listened to volunteers and medical students who were referring patients. During all of these situations I recorded the dialogue and then later translated it. I revised the translations for familiarity to Spanish speakers, not necessarily accuracy of the literal translation from English. After the dialogue had been established I conducted a few examinations using my new dialogue, and then made a final revision based upon the feedback from Spanish speaking patients.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Get To Know Your Patients: Who Speaks Spanish?

After volunteering at Physicians Free Clinic the staff will come to learn that no two people’s stories are the same.  While some generalizations in life can be made, each person is unique.  The English capabilities of each patient will be different.  Some patients may have Hispanic surnames but in fact speak no Spanish.   Others may be bilingual in both languages.  The training provided in this blog is intended for those that have limited communication abilities in English.  To assist in this task a few generalizations can be made.         

While not full proof, these generalizations are related to age.  Generally, first generation immigrants will speak their native language and have limited proficiency in the host country’s language.  This effect over time is less important, as living in a country with native speakers is the most effective way to learn a language.  Second generation immigrants, the children of people who immigrated to a new country, are generally the most bilingual of all immigrant generations. You may see this generation accompanying their parents to serve as translators.  Immigrants who belong to third and higher generations generally only speak the language of the country in which they live.  Use discretion as you screen patients, it would be recommended with all of the patients to inquire if they prefer their exam in Spanish or English.  If the patient has brought an English proficient relative who has come and is willing to translate, let their relative help. 

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