Non-conversational Spanish

We have scribes at our hospital ED, and they’re not just amazingly bright young people who help us with charting, they’re amazingly bright young people who bring various other talents with them.

A talent that’s often useful is the Spanish language here in Texas. Often, we’re pressed for time, and a scribe with any Spanish-language talent is a sought-after commodity.

One of my colleagues relates that once he asked a new scribe if they spoke any Spanish.

The answer? “I speak conversational Spanish”. (Doc is pleased).

So, off to the patient’s room. Scribe gets through basic introductions okay.

“Is she having any vaginal discharge?” is the question, aimed at the scribe for relay to the patient.

Loooong pause.

“That’s not really conversational Spanish”, says a scribe now completely beyond their ability.

All’s well that ends well, but now we all have an appreciation for how medical and conversational language differ.