Going to see a doctor can be a stress-inducing experience for a lot of people, and that stress can be made even worse visiting a doctor who may not speak the same language.
As a practicing doctor, you may not have the time to learn a new language, but you can still work toward helping all of your patients, including those who may not share your language, as best you can.
Dr. Alexander Martin has 5 tips for Spanish Eye Exams!
1) Use the formal usted rather than informal tú
The exam room is a formal place! Using usted reassures the patient that your office is a professional space and as their doctor you respect them.
2. Remember a few key phrases
Even if you are unable to ask direct or complex questions, you can learn basic command words and phrases that you can use to better guide the exam. Here are a few examples:
|Read the letters||Leer las letras|
|Look (You look in x direction)||Mire _____|
|Look straight ahead||Mire enfrente|
3. Walk through using the equipment
Continuing with handy phrases to have on hand, being able to inform your patients about how to properly use testing equipment can help them to feel safer and well cared for. Being able to instruct patients also will allow you to gather accurate data. For example, if using the slit lamp, you can use the phrase Ponga su barbia aqui while pointing at the chin rest will direct them to “Put your chin here.”
4. No estoy embarasada
When learning a new language, it is perfectly sensible to use cognates as often as possible, especially if you’re a tad nervous. You’re welcome to share your language-learning jitters with the patient ahead of time, but don’t say estoy embarasada. Rather than declaring “I am embarrassed,” you’ll actually be declaring that you’re pregnant. Try estoy emocionada (or emocionado if you identify as a man) instead!
This instead translates to “I’m excited!” and lets your patient know that while you’re still getting the hang of your new Spanish skills, you’re ready to do everything you can to help.
5. You can do more than hello and goodbye
Hola and adios, while not incorrect, can feel impersonal. Using full phrases can go a long way to liven up your hellos and goodbyes.
Here are a few good options!
|Hello, good day||Buenos dias|
|Hello, good evening||Buenas tardes|
|Goodbye, have a good day||Adios! Que pase buen dia|
Making the effort to help a patient feel more welcome in your practice can go a long way. The next time you have a patient who may need assistance in Spanish, you can use some of these tips to guide the exam! Keep in mind that this advice is no substitute for a full translator if the situation calls for it, but these tips and phrases can provide fantastic support.
For additional resources, check out:
- Dr. Martin Diaz's Website which has excellent patient education in Spanish as well as a way to find Spanish-speaking doctors.
- Optranslate: A website / App that is for multiple languages
- National Eye Institute has resources in Spanish as well, many are free to request and download
Additionally, if you need office documents translated you can contact Dr. Martin via email: firstname.lastname@example.org