Surgery – Day 9

Being a non-native English speaker undergoing surgery in a predominantly English-speaking hospital must be scary, even more so than any other hospitalization. You are undergoing a major invasive procedure and you can’t even properly communicate with the person who is going to be cutting into you. Even though interpreter services are available, as good as they are I’m sure there are things that get lost in translation or simply omitted, and there is no way for the physician to verify or clarify since there is no way for them to know if a mistranslation occurred. On top of that, working through interpreter services makes a patient encounter take double the time as it is so there is some pressure, even if subconscious, to not be as thorough or comprehensive as one would be in a language concordant interaction.

Today in clinic I was using a Spanish interpreter and on several occasions the interpreter simply left out parts of what I was saying (based on my limited Spanish). I’m not sure if it was for clarity sake, or succinctness, but I think part of the art of medicine is carefully choosing your words and how you relay information to patients.

The solution is simple, physician need to learn the languages of their patients, but that is not super practical. Not sure what the solution, but I just imagine it’s a bit scary having doctors examining your belly and talking about you in front of you without you really understand what is being said.


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