How to handle English to Spanish medical translation

Nurses General Nursing


I work in a small rural ER & we are beginning to see more and more Spanish patients, as they are migrating to this area to work in the timber and farming industries here. We have one Spanish-speaking doctor in our ER, but on the days that he isn't working, we have a very difficult time communicating with the Spanish speaking patients. We have used the AT&T translation line, but it is a difficult process, and sometimes the patient speaks a different dialect of the language, and AT&T is unable to translate.

Any ideas on how we could handle this problem? I have heard that there are internet translation services available. Do any of you use them?

I'm a new nurse, and I'm considering taking a medical Spanish class, if that's available. I haven't started looking yet--I just got NCLEX out of the way!

I would appreciate your input on how this is handled in your facilities.

live4today, RN

5,099 Posts

Specializes in Community Health Nurse.

I have a spanish to english translater pocket size book that I use to carry around with me when working with spanish speaking patients. It can still be purchased today, so here is the information you'll need to order one:

The pocket size flip-chart is titled: Speedy Spanish for Nursing Personnel. The ISBN code for it is: ISBN 0-9615829-4-4.

You can either order it from a major bookstore, or order it directly from: Baja Books, Box 4151, Santa Barbara, CA 93140.

They also have pocket size flip-charts for the doctors as well as one for physical therapists. Hope this helps! :)


104 Articles; 5,349 Posts

Specializes in Gerontological, cardiac, med-surg, peds.

Do you have a computer available with internet capabilities? If so, try this website (great aid):

I have taken Spanish courses in high school, also in college, as well as a refresher course in nursing school. This really helped. We have professional on-site translators at our hospital, but they are often so busy (about 700 beds), that there can be an hour or so wait for their services. It really helps with patient care for Hispanic clients being able to speak Spanish on an intermediate level as well as having this internet resource. This is great for finding patient's presenting symptoms, doing initial assessment, doing patient admission record. Helps in a true emergency also. A word of caution--professional translation services are needed for such situations as legal consents before procedures, etc. Otherwise, you can get into a world of legal trouble. :eek:


1,041 Posts

Also, has a translator that works for several languages.

I'm a dictionary-type person, and I have to say, is powerful stuff. My sister, who is an apartment manager, had the same language problem. When I showed her, the problem was gone.

Try to use simple, correct english. If the english word is complicated, expand it.

expand a proceedure to include actions, and not just a single word.

bagladyrn, RN

2,286 Posts

Specializes in OB.

I found the book "Spanish for the healthcare provider" to be very helpful. It is divided into section such as "the admission", "the operation", "labor and delivery", etc. with common questions,info and phrases for each topic in those sections. It also has an English to Spanish and a Spanish to English dictionary in it. (I've handed this last section to families/pts. so they can figure out how to let me know what they want)

It's paperback and can be found or ordered at most of the chain bookstores.

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