Why Health Care Workers Should Learn Spanish & How to Choose a Medical Spanish Program

There can be little doubt that learning Spanish is a necessity for all those involved in the health care profession. Often caring for patients is a matter of effective communication. This means that if you can’t communicate with your patients, important factors about their illnesses, concerns and issues may very well not be addressed.

In just a few years, the United States will have the second largest Spanish speaking population in the world. In fact, only Mexico will have more Spanish speakers. These statistics have obvious implications for all American health care workers.

Hospital administrators are quickly realizing that they must have their organizations prepared for this new and emerging reality. More and more, hospitals are requiring their staff to speak some Spanish. This type of requirement is increasing common for health care workers who are working in the emergency room.

The logic behind this push to have health care workers speak Spanish is pretty clear. Imagine you are working in an emergency room and you have a seriously injured accident victim arrive who only speaks Spanish. Not being able to effectively communicate could quite literally be the difference between life and death.

There are a few ways one can go about learning Spanish, such as taking Spanish night classes, for example. However, this option does come with some pretty substantial drawbacks for many people. The time frame for learning Spanish through your typical Spanish class can be rather slow. This is especially true if you are trying to take Spanish on the side while working full time.

Immersion programs have long been popular for those looking to learn a foreign language. The pace can be fast and intense, but so are the results. Those who need to learn Spanish quickly will be well served in considering such a program. Such programs at Spanish schools are a solution for health care workers who are looking to learn the language quickly.

Many people looking to learn Spanish are opting for these types of Spanish immersion programs. Besides learning the language, cultural experiences and activities are an integral part of the course. Such programs are offered in a variety of countries including Mexico, Guatemala, Argentina, Chile or Peru. While Mexico is convenient for North Americans, recent events and security concerns cause many to look further. For example, Mexico’s current crime wave is a sad fact of life. This factor unfortunately makes Mexico less than an ideal spot for traveling students. Due to this factor, many people choosing to learn Spanish abroad are opting for other countries.

Further down in South America, Argentina, Chile and Peru tend to be far safer than Mexico and can be the ideal choice for health care workers. The fact that you can hike the Andes of Chile or dance the tango in a world-class city like Buenos Aires is simply an extra bonus. The cultural perks that go along with an immersion program as you learn Spanish in Argentina, Chile or Peru make your trip most memorable.

In fact, several Spanish language schools have course add-ons to meet the specific needs of health care workers. With a little investigation you can learn Spanish abroad while also conducting role-playing and clinical shadowing. Some study abroad programs also offer instruction geared towards health care workers like the teaching of medical terminology in Spanish. In the case of clinical shadowing, students are assigned to a doctor or nurse and then follow them as they work with a country’s health care system. There are even Spanish immersion programs that allow health care workers to reach out to the community through the means of heath fairs, which provide much needed tests and screenings to impoverished locals in South American.

One recent American student, Lori Hendrickson from Milwaukee, studied Spanish abroad and shadowed in a public health hospital in Buenos Aires. As she was already a nurse, she was able to practice her newly learned Spanish medical terminology with real patients. Hendrickson stated that, “the friendly staff in the E.R. and Obstetrics Unit not only allowed me to participate in direct patient care, but also gave me great insight into the structure of the Argentine health care system.”