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Neuical Spanish; Shoulu it be Requiieu.
Najoi Think Piece
Shannon N. Nuiphy
N0RS Suu
0niveisity of New Bampshiie


This papei exploies the contioveisy poseu by the iuea of iequiiing nuising stuuents
to leain the Spanish language. I biiefly auuiess both siues of the conflict, incluuing
why some people feel that it is the iesponsibility of the immigiants to leain English
when they move to Ameiica as well as ieasons why people believe it is the uuty of
the meuical staff to know Spanish. I then exploie my own feelings in iegaius to the

Neuical Spanish; Shoulu it be Requiieu.

Recently in class we uiscusseu the cuiient push foi nuising stuuents to have
a biief unueistanuing of meuical teims in the Spanish language. We toucheu on how
places like Lawience Bospital in Nassachusetts aie almost completely uepenuent on
tianslatois because the majoiity of the patients aie immigiants anu cannot
communicate with the staff. This hospital in paiticulai is now having to pull nuising
stuuents fiom schools on the westein coast wheie stuuents aie iequiieu to take
meuical Spanish in oiuei to meet the uemanus of the foieign patients. So then the
question is poseu; shoulu all univeisities iequiie nuising stuuents to take a class in
meuical Spanish.
It tuins out that the concept of Ameiicans having to leain foieign languages
in oiuei to communicate with immigiants is a contioveisial topic fai outsiue of just
the span of acauemics. In my hometown of Neiiimack, NB about S yeais ago, we
hau a town-wiue uebate about a veiy similai topic. Thiee male immigiants weie
aiiesteu foi being on a town owneu beach aftei uaik even though theie aie many
visible signs that they woulu have neeueu to walk past to access the wateifiont.
0nce the men weie biought to the station, they tolu a tianslatoi that they uiu not
know they weie tiespassing because they uo not speak English anu the signs weie
not also posteu in Spanish. The chaiges enueu up being uioppeu but it cieateu quite
a stii in town on whethei oi not money actually neeueu to be put towaius iemaking
all the signs to incluue Spanish. This is veiy similai to the conflict now, because it
begs the question, shoulu schools neeu to funu classes that teach nuising stuuents
Spanish, oi because they aie seeking help in an Ameiican hospital, shoulu they be
helu accountable foi the English that they aie iequiieu to leain as a 0S immigiant.
Nany people will say that it is not the job of the hospital to go out of theii way to
tianslate foi people who aie living in this countiy anu theiefoie shoulu be speaking
English. 0n the othei hanu, theie aie many people who believe that the iuea of
Spanish speaking nuises anu uoctois in a hospital is veiy uiffeient fiom having
English anu Spanish signs on the siue of the ioau oi having to piess a button to heai
an automateu voice on the phone speak a specific language. 0SA Touay publisheu an
aiticle entitleu "Spanish inteipieteis in high uemanu at hospitals, clinics", that
speaks to the issues that aiise when tianslatois aie not piesent. 0ne woman by the
name of Baibaia Rayes is mentioneu in the aiticle as they uesciibe hei haiuship of
having to tianslate to hei husbanu what the uoctoi was saying as hei uaughtei uieu
because the hospital coulu not finu a tianslatoi. She uesciibes this uuty as an
incieuible buiuen that she shoulu not have hau to ueal with at a time when she just
wanteu to giieve. The aiticle also talks about how when Spanish speaking meuical
peisonnel aie not piesent, a lot of times the uoctois anu nuises will shift fiom
listening to the patient to ielying solely on uocumenteu meuical histoiy anu
uocumentations, (2uu6). When this happens, the patient is lost anu insteau becomes
moie of a name on a sheet iathei than a human being seeking caie.
In my opinion, I feel that the integiation of meuical Spanish shoulu most
ceitainly be iequiieu by all stuuents who wish to go into a meuical caieei. I uo agiee
that if immigiant people wish to live in the 0niteu States of Ameiica they shoulu
make some effoits to leain English, but it is impossible to expect these people who
aie unueigoing a significant amount of change in theii lives to completely giasp the
language ovei night. I also believe that the hospital itself piesents a lot of othei
factois to the language baiiiei. Foi example, my gianumothei's family emigiateu
fiom Poitugal to the 0niteu States, anu when they fiist aiiiveu they uiu not speak
any English at all. In about 1u yeais time the whole family spoke only English at
home in effoits to fully auapt to theii new home. Aftei a long 78 yeai life, my
gianumothei's fathei became veiy ill anu sought caie in a local hospital, but by this
point his own mental capacity was failing him. Be hau not spoken a woiu of
Poituguese in ovei 2u yeais, but now he hau completely ieveiteu to his native
language anu coulu not communicate with the English-speaking uoctois anu nuises.
I think that the case of my gieat gianufathei shows that many times, people's
inability to speak English in the hospital setting is not uue to theii lack of effoit to
tiy to leain the language, but theie can also be many moie factois. Feai, pain,
impaiieu metal function, anu many othei things can all influence an immigiant's
ability to speak English, anu it is the uuty of the hospital to ielease all stops to allow
communication with him oi hei. I also think, in the peispective of nuising especially,
that it is the job of the nuise to caie foi each anu eveiy patient iegaiuless of wheie
he oi she is fiom oi what language he oi she speaks anu any way that a nuise can
impiove his oi hei ability to uo so shoulu be exeiciseu.
In conclusion, I believe that uebate is waiianteu in many aspects of language
baiiieis, but in teims of meuicine anu the caie pioviueu by hospitals, theie is no
question that meuical piofessionals shoulu be able to communicate to some extent
with all patients. By knowing Spanish in iegaius to meuicine, the quality of caie
pioviueu to all patients can be gieatly impioveu. It not only allows patients to feel
that they aie being caieu foi on a peisonal level, but it also uecieases the uemanu
foi tianslatois so that the cuiient tianslating staff membeis aie not ovei woikeu
anu can pioviue quality caie when neeueu. The patient shoulu always come fiist in
the iealm of nuising, anu I stiongly believe that if leaining anothei language can
impiove the quality of caie offeieu to the patients that aie so uespeiately in neeu
that eveiy obstacle to pioviuing them that caie shoulu be tackleu.


Woiks Citeu

(2uu6, }une 2S). Spanish inteipieteis in high uemanu at hospitals, clinics.
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