Living as a nursing student these days makes me feel like someone out of some medical show. I recently watched some episodes of Grey’s Anatomy having had given this TV show a hiatus. It’s a little too dramatic for me, but sometimes, I watch medical shows like Chicago Med or Code Black for the medical stuff. When they have downtime from seeing patients, they talk, and it’s very medical. Sometimes I feel like that when I sit down with my colleagues.
Many talk about some cool things they’ve seen while on rotations and granted, some of the things I get to do is pretty cool. I’m not going to deny that. However, I had the opportunity to do something that I was actually incredibly uncomfortable doing recently, and it was translating for a patient in their native language.
Despite having the opportunity to see, participate, and do some cool things to ensure that a patient can progress towards baseline (i.e. improve to healthy status or to a point in time prior to admission to the hospital), being able to translate for a patient has to be, for me, personally, one of the most impacting and coolest thing I got to do. Now, some of you may have a raised eyebrow, but without getting into detail of what happened, I think I personally impacted this patient’s life with my broken second language skills.
To see someone smile when you speak their native language is priceless. Honestly, as a predominantly English speaker, I forget how it’s difficult to not know a language. In the US, we do speak English predominantly, and when someone doesn’t, I’m sure it’s frustrating. That person to person interaction in a different language makes all the difference. As I get older, I am losing that ability to speak my 2nd language, and I think the exposure of using this makes me want to learn the language more, or speak it more so that when I am working with patients, I can cater to their needs.
I haven’t traveled much lately, but having traveled outside of the country in the past, I recall feeling like an outsider when I didn’t know how to speak their language. I recall the frustration some felt when I gave them this blank confused look. I recall my own frustration, wishing that people spoke English. Can you imagine what it’s like to be in the US at an age where learning may be more difficult, trying to learn English, but comprehension isn’t there? It’s hard. It really is. I know that feeling, and honestly, if people were exposed this difficulty, they may understand and empathize more of this difficulty. Judge me for all you want, but I think if we were exposed to more experiences like this, people would understand and know rather than judge. I have my own biases when it comes to this, but I wish people would understand that not everyone speaks english, and rather than get frustrated, perhaps they can inquire more.
This experience came out of no where for me. It was out of the blue. In fact, I thought that I would never have the opportunity to use my 2nd language because 1) I’m not good at speaking it; 2) My rotation location is not where many people of my nationality/ethnicity/cultural background live; and 3) I just never thought I would ever translate while a student (I don’t know why that’s the case, I just…thought I’d never experience that).
Inquiring about underlying causes is a big part to treatment. For instance, if one had altered mental status, rather than just give a medication to change that, nurses, doctors, psychiatry, and the entire healthcare team for this patient works to find the underlying cause. Sometimes, for a person who doesn’t speak English, this can be difficult. Being able to talk to a person and see where they are coming from can help with finding out some of the issues they are in the hospital for. For me, being able to help with this process, for me, was incredibly rewarding, and so different from the notion of “what’s cool to see” as a nursing student. I interacted with the family as well as the patient, with the nurse, and sometimes with them just to build that relationship so they are comfortable with a student nurse working with the primary nurse.
In conclusion, there are cool things I get to see and do as a student nurse. However, at the end of the day, the coolest and most rewarding thing I got to do thus far as a nurse, is catering to a patient whose primary language isn’t English. It makes me want to improve on my 2nd language so that I can help other patients out more. Perhaps as part of my Spring Break goals, I can boost my language skills for other rotations. 😉
Ok, for reals…I’m going to go back to studying.
Have you guys had opportunities to see cool things? What’s a rewarding thing you got to do as a student nurse or for those who are nurses, what have you done?