Throughout the course, we emphasized the importance of building our confidence in order to communicate with members of the community in both English and Spanish. On our final day of class, we all agreed that, rather than our actual Spanish skills, it was our confidence in using those skills that had increased most.
I started to consider how my own level of confidence had changed throughout the course. In terms of my Spanish use, the actual use of usted rather than tu was an aspect that I really needed to improve. On paper, the concepts make sense and I can apply them with ease. However, in reality, using the usted form for sentences or phrases that I almost always use with the tu form. For example, with many patients, I would spend a few minutes before the doctor arrived, speaking with them about general topics, their family, work situations, etc. These conversations broke the mold of the typical four-question interactions in the office. During these conversations, I would often slip and use the informal form instead of the formal. More often than not, the patients were grateful for the opportunity to interact with people and the distraction from the uncomfortable pre-appointment boredom, and they seemed to look beyond my errors and focus on the content of the conversation. Once I realized that the content was more important, I began to feel more confident and, as a result, the correct forms came more easily.
Our use of Spanish wasn’t the only aspect of our work that increased our confidence. During my last visit to the office, the primary secretary was training another woman who had just begun to work in the office. She had worked as a hygienist in the past, but hadn’t been trained with the systems used to make appointments and store patient information. Considering she hadn’t had much experience with the programs, she reasonably became frustrated when she made an error. I by no means considered myself an expert with the everyday functions of the office since I had a six-day break between shifts, but I did know how to maneuver the system well enough to provide some assistance.
An important, though oftentimes overlooked, aspect of our training in this course has been developing our personal skills that exist alongside our professional skills. We have a set of professional interpersonal skills that we use to interact with patients in order to satisfy the responsibilities of our position. However, we also have a set of personal skills that do not satisfy the responsibilities of our position, but rather that enable us to better our working environment. During this same shift, the coworker was feeling very stressed, so we a spent a lot of time discussing how difficult learning a new program or new policies can be. Although these conversations did not directly apply to our duties in the office, it helped her feel calm and attempt the tasks again.
Overall, our work in the community has helped us gain a well-rounded sense of confidence. We each have faced a unique set of challenges and, by overcoming them in our own ways, we have shaped our own experiences. This atypical class has allowed us to become more independent, relying on our own capacities rather than the direct instructions of our professors.