Why was there no time to use the language line? It's a PITA, but really only takes a few moments,and from what you describe, could have made a HUGE difference in the quality of care provided to this Pt.
Not trying to sound harsh or anything, but ethically, it should have been accomodated, as I'm sure your hospitals Pt Bill of Rights says something about the right to have all procedures explained to you in the language that you are most comfortable with.
Personally-I'm trying to learn as much Spanish as I can without taking any formal classes (as I don't have the time or flexibility of schedule to commit to that right now, unfortunately). I try to use the language line whenever it's not an emergency. I try to schedule Pt care for when I know the significant other or a trusted friend who is bilingual will be present.
I love your approach, that this isn't a "Why should I be expected to learn their
language?". You seem very compassionate and caring, and that's excellent. It will get you far in the hearts of your pts. It sounds sappy, but I'm serious.
We have a nurse on our unit who has said "I refuse to learn ONE word of Spanish. This is America, they chose to come here, let them learn some English" She also refuses on Language Line (unless a doc requests it). So I'd really like to know how she completes her assessments.
Keep in mind, though, that even if you become fluent in Spanish, you'll still run into this situation from time to time. In the past month, I've had Pts who speak only Mandarin (chinese), Turkish, and one who spoke Urdu, Farsi, Hindi but not a word of English.
And Re: Language Line-FYI (and I didn't know this until recently)-most hospitals are equipped so that you can use the regular phone in the Pt's room, and call the operator and let her know you need to be connected to spanish LL translator. You'll be on hold a few min, and the operator will give LL all the info--account number, all that.