This article appears on the Journal of the American Academy of Physician Assistants’ blog, Musings.
Spring is in the air—almost! At
least there was enough sunshine today to cause me to stop in at my local nursery/garden shop. Their spring supply of plants is beginning to trickle in, and the agrarian influence in my DNA always makes me want to go outside and dig a hole. That activity is always best received in my household if I plant something also. The possibilities always seem endless. I am sure someone has written an algorithm for plant selection: poor draining soil + partial sun + less than 3 feet tall + midsummer to fall bloom + deer resistant + tolerates drought + attracts butterflies + not already in yard = … Well, you get the drift.On occasion, I have constructed a plan for a certain part of the yard. However, I will admit that most of those plans, drawn during the winter as I’m looking outside while seated with a cup of coffee, never quite make it to final production. But isn’t that the way it is for all creative ventures? It all comes apart at the nursery. I just seem to wander aimlessly trying to keep one step ahead of the different irrigation systems. It is just a great place to be. The workers there must agree, because I see the same ones year after year.It is not easy work. Besides the nursery part, the shop also has a fresh market where a lot of local produce ends up, as well as their own corn and strawberries. The work can be backbreaking, hot and dirty. The workers don’t shy away. They continue to check on me between their tasks and always have a smile and understand what I need. This last part always disturbs me a little. You see, most of them are Hispanic. They speak among themselves in their native language but always speak English to me. I guess they figure that speaking Spanish is not a possibility for me. Maybe they are right.
I have tried to learn some Spanish. I took a special medical Spanish course a few years ago. The problem is that I don’t have many Spanish-speaking patients. When I do care for one, it is too late to brush up on the language again. I am frustrated by this personal shortcoming. I marvel at the owner of this nursery. He was born and raised in the area, but he switches from English to Spanish sometimes in mid-sentence. I believe he has gained a trust from his workers because of this, and they have responded by being good workers and recognizing the value of learning another language—English.
I would like to gain the trust of the Hispanic patients I see for surgery. Many of them are older and scared and rely on younger family members to translate for them. For liability purposes, the hospital wants us to rely on an interpreter hotline. However, maybe if I could just commit to memory a few key phrases, I could better convey my concern for their health and well-being.