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Scenario 1:  I had a Spanish speaking patient in the ER.  Awesome, I thought, because my nurse speaks Spanish!  I went to her and asked her to translate.  She handed me a phone and gave me the number for the hospital interpreter.  I went through the steps, thinking the entire time how stupid and pointless it was since she could save me this trouble by translating for me.

Scenario 2:  A different Spanish speaking client in the ER.  The nurse asks the patient’s teenage daughter to translate the conversation.  She agrees.  The nurse asks, “Are you on any medication?”  The daughter translates, “Are you taking any drugs?”  This question implies illegal substances so the patient answered, “No.”  The medical team gives him medication to control his condition, it interacts with his current medication (which no one knew he was taking), and he dies.  Hello, lawsuit; goodbye, prudent nursing.

Lesson learned: It’s annoying and time consuming but always use your hospital interpreter.  No exceptions.  Even if your entire nursing team speaks Spanish, you must use a licensed interpreter, trained in medical terminology.

(And when I say, licensed interpreter, I don’t mean Catherine Tate:)

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