BACKGROUND: Access to basic health care is often restricted due to language and cultural barriers, and the number of medical personnel who speak Spanish is woefully inadequate. Now, the University of Texas, Southwestern, in Dallas, has created a unique medical Spanish program for their physician's assistant students that has enhanced their relationship with Spanish-speaking patients and improved the medical care patient receive.
ABOUT THE PROGRAM: UT-Southwestern is not the only medical institution offering medical Spanish to its students. There are several others, and these classes are becoming increasingly popular among students within medical professions. What makes the UT-Southwestern program unique is how it has incorporated its medical Spanish classes into a 31-month, fully integrated and required (as opposed to elective) part of the physician's assistant program. In the first semester, students learn grammar and vocabulary that corresponds to their medical training. In the second, they conduct mock physical exams with trained, Spanish-speaking simulated patients in a clinical setting. In the third semester, students must give a presentation on an illness in Spanish and conduct mock physical exams on each other.
BENEFITS: The program has been so successful that when students reach the rotation phase ı with the majority of their patients speaking only Spanish in Texas or any other southern state ı they often find they can conduct an examination without using a word of English. Being able to give a physical exam in Spanish can enhance care for Spanish-speaking patients. Interpreters can hinder the bond between clinicians and patients. Patients feel comfortable sharing their symptoms, and healthcare providers can better educate them about their health conditions. It's easier for patients to comply with treatment if the provider has a deeper knowledge of the patient's culture. As for the students, it gives an added bonus to aid them in their search, and can also help speed up their comprehension of Latinate medical terms.
The Human Factors and Ergonomics Society contributed to the information contained in the TV portion of this report.