Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Student Reflection

by Jacqui Kukulski

-Quiero una cita.

-¿Para qué?

This is part of the conversation that I often have with patients over the phone.  We get many calls everyday all for the same complaint: “I want an appointment” (which really isn’t a complaint or symptom of anything). On our outgoing message we have the usual request for information: name, birthday, phone number and the reason for the call.  I guess you could say that we’re getting all of those, but the reason isn’t always specific.  This then starts a phone call game of tag between the translators and the patient trying to get all the pertinent information as well as the reason why they’re calling, ie their symptoms.  It gets even more interesting when you can’t even make out the word for their symptom.

I once had a woman explain her symptoms to me, but she kept talking.  I tried my hardest to understand everything she said.  I continually asked questions to make sure that I understood what she was telling me.  I didn’t understand her completely.  After a while she asked if there was another translator who she could speak to.  I said sure.  She hung up on me.  There wasn’t really another available translator for her to talk to, but I found her an appointment anyways for the symptoms that I did understand.  I didn’t want to call her back because she had just yelled at me.  I called her back anyways, the second I said that I had an appointment for her, her attitude changed.  She was no longer a complaining woman upset that she didn’t have an appointment, but she was so grateful and nice.  She thanked me profusely and we went on our merry ways.

This has happened often in answering phones.  They don’t always get mad and yell at me, but there are times when things get difficult and I don’t have another translator there to back me up.  But it’s actually better this way, because without the crutch of the actual translator, I’m forced to work through my Spanish and find out a way to communicate with the patients in a way that we both understand.

What’s more, is that simply finding someone an appointment can make their day.  The way that woman’s attitude change can attest for that.  After she hung up on me and I was talking with a nurse to get her an appointment, I mentioned it to them, because after all, I was a bit upset by it.  I had been trying to understand her and she simply got upset.  But the nurse and several CNAs who overheard all agree: at least I was trying to understand what she was saying.  At least I didn’t just guess and make things up. 

This comes back to one of my earlier posts, where you just have to take things with a grain of salt and become a stronger person.  If I had let that woman truly get to me, I could have given up and stopped trying to help translate.  But instead you have to see beyond the interaction and understand that that woman was probably trying to get an appointment for weeks, was probably in a lot of pain and is probably under a lot of stress from her job, family or something else.  It’s not always easy to see through to this point, but when you do, the compassion comes back and a sharp word no longer has the sting that it did before.

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