I did 3 years of Spanish in high school. Three years! Yet I can’t really speak much of any of it. My last clinical rotation involved a lot of me trying to recover any bit of Spanish my brain had retained. I found that even though I did not know much, my patients really appreciated the effort…or at, at the very least, enjoyed laughing at me. In an interesting turn of events, I have not had a single Spanish speaking patient yet! But I’ve had two Farsi speaking patients….and that has been a challenge.
Both of my Farsi speaking patients know English. One knows it more than the other and so I can say just about anything to her and she understands. The other patient struggles quite a bit and usually responds with “Yes” when I ask when she feels pain. It makes treating her quite difficult. So I took it upon myself to learn as much Farsi as I can from my patients so that I can communicate with them better and so that if another Farsi speaking patient comes in, I’ll be ready.
So far I can count to 30, say # times, # seconds, ___ times with the ____ leg, say up/down, say hello/goodbye/pain, say ankle/knee/hip/back. I’ve learned so much in such a short amount of time and my patients absolutely love that I’m trying.
As physical therapists, we have a lot that we can teach patients….but we also have A LOT of patients that have quite a bit that THEY can teach US. Take the time to get to know your patients beyond their injuries and you’ll not only gain their trust, but you’ll learn so many new things!