Not even a word of English

Nurses Relations


Specializes in ICU.

This past 2 weeks, the patients i have opened up cases for in HH speak not a work of English. They have social security numbers, Medicare benefits, and Medicaid benefits. Live in the U.S. But do not speak a word of English. Getting a family member who does or a translator at a certain time, or even to make a simple phone call and to get someone to answer the door is an utmost challenge.

I know this topic is controversial, but why am I struggling to hard to understand some Spanish so I can do my job in America?

Most are quite lovely patients. Some are just shocked that I don't speak Spanish!

My rant of the day. And these days, there are a lot of rants for me in this field, I admit it.

This is a touchy and sensitive topic for people. Interesting post. I have actually lost jobs for not being bilingual. Or maybe I shouldn't say "lost", but speaking another language would have given me an edge. I think it is what it is. America is so diverse and changing. We are at a point if you want to get a job in certain areas, you need to know another language. Is it "fair". Probably not. But its the reality. I don't mean this to be rude, and I know people want to get away from the customer service aspect of nursing. But in many ways, patients are the customers. We just may have to learn their language or deal with translators. Again, not ideal. But its the reaity of our wonderful America. Hope things get better for you.

Specializes in Clinical Research, Outpt Women's Health.

It is a difficult subject. I speak a little espanol, but not even on the same planet as being fluent. I would love to get fluent if someone would pay for my time involved in doing that.

I do believe if you move to a foreign country you should try to learn the language for your own benefit. And to expect the people in that country to learn your native language seems unfair and unrealistic.

Specializes in Hospital Education Coordinator.

when my son (American) moved to Sweden he had to take a course in basic language skills and topics related to laws, benefits, etc. It lasted 6 weeks. Only then could he get the card that allowed him to work.

To the OP: Could your employer look in to subcription of a interpreter service either via phone or online? Is there any liability on the employer's part if the patient does not speak English? Just a suggestion

We make it easy for them NOT to learn English. Of course they are surprised you don't speak Spanish...

isn't there a button on you somewhere that says "press 2 for Spanish"?

God help all concerned if there is a medical emergency when you enter a home.

It'll probably be YOUR fault if you can't translate "I am having chest pain 6/10 , it radiates to my jaw, and I am nauseated"....

and they have the big one!

Specializes in Med/Surg, Academics.

Probably a good 25% (probably more) of the patients where I work can't speak English fluently enough to make their needs known on a consistent basis. Where I live, it's mostly Spanish and Polish, although I've also had Italian and Arabic often enough that it surprises me. I've lost my irritation at the "no English" patients over time.

The only time I feel a bit irritable is when the patients are belligerent out of the gate because I can't speak their language. I've had a couple of admissions like that. I had one patient who could say, "Do you speak Polish?" very clearly. When I told him, "No, only English," he waved me out of the room with a look of disgust. Allrighty, then.

There have been many studies where ESL patients/no English patients have a lower quality of care. Well, duh...

Specializes in Gerontology.

We get a lot of pts that don't speak English. We get: Chinese, Italian, Urdu, Farsi, Greek to name a few. It is a huge challenge.

Esp Chinese as Mandarin and Cantonese are both very difficult languages to learn.

Chinese is actaully so popular in my community that all are signs in the hospital are English and Chinese. So are the signs are Walmart, the menu at McDonalds.

The even scarier part is that we are seeing 2nd and 3rd generations that can barely speak English.

Specializes in Med/Surg, Academics.
So are the signs are Walmart, the menu at McDonalds.

This got me to thinking back to my marketing days in the 90's. We had a management position created for "special audiences," i.e. those that didn't speak English. She did a lot of research on the cost/benefit analysis for businesses to cater to non-English speaking populations. There was a lot of money there, especially in a time (back then) when foreign language cable channels were just starting to crop up.

IMO, it's not the government that's made it easy to not speak English. National or regional corporations learned very quickly that entire segments of the population were made of $$$, and they could be tapped into just by catering to those populations and offering services in native languages. There are certain bank branches where I live that the ONLY languages you hear when you enter is Polish or Spanish.

At my gynecologist's office (he's multi-generation American, but speaks Spanish fluently), the signs are in Spanish first, then English below in smaller letters. The first time I went to his new office, the receptionists greeted me in Spanish, then quickly changed to English when they heard me introduce myself. His practice is probably larger than it has ever been since the move.

I see it all the time, and decided that once I'm finished with my BSN I'm going to get a computer program that will help me learn spanish for use in a medical setting. Look on amazon for what's available (something like Rosetta Stone but with a medical focus). I get a lot of patients that speak only Spanish, Tagolog, Creole, or Gugarati. Most of the nursing staff speaks Tagolog, and there is usually an aid that speaks Spanish or Creole on staff at any given time. A few times I've gotten patients that only speak Polish or Italian - then we are completely lost!

Where I live and work, the job listings request bilingual Spanish more often than not, with an occasional different language requested. I used to make apologies for my limited Spanish when I met Spanish-speaking clients, but no longer do that after giving the matter quite a deal of thought.

Specializes in Critical Care, Education.

I believe that there are new CMS regs that speak to this. The patient's primary language has to be taken into account as part of the planning & implementation of health care services. Language abilities must be assessed as part of the admission process and if an organization cannot meet the needs of non-English speakers, they should not be accepting those patients - must refer to another provider.

The US does not have an "official" language, so all arguments about America=English are moot - at least until we change the Constitution.

Specializes in ED.

Spanish is tough, and time consuming. I just finished Spanish 1 last semester and I wish I would've went ahead and taken the other one.. But it's tedious. It's interesting and actually kind of simple but then again it's backwards from how we do things. There are lots of resources online to help learn Spanish. I plan to eventually pick it back up. I live in Al with a big Spanish population, so I see it as almost necessary for my career. Good luck. Just do a google search and you should be able to find some stuff. Also, I think you can buy a myspanish lab session and not be affiliated with a school. Just like a personal session. It's online and very easy to use and understand. It's how I did it. My text was called Arriba! You could probably find one for very cheap on amazon.

+ Add a Comment