Since I began more medical interpreting, a frequent conundrum appears weekly during the patient-doctor interaction. Physician Wellington speaks a bit of Spanish, ignores the interpreter and addresses comments directly to the LEP. More often than not the rendering confuses the patient what with clumsy syntax and a curious accent. I know I’m to manage the communication flow as a conduit, clarifier, culture broker and advocate. What happens when butchered Spanglish enters the picture? How do I assuage the doctor’s ego, intervene politely and facilitate understanding?
My first reaction is to smile and repeat what Madame Nurse said and hope Señora Villaverde continues to chatter on. Rarely does the LEP attempt to speak English and when that happens, a quick glance to the provider lets me know if she understood. Invariably some doctor continues to rattle on en español and I look frantically to Mrs. Villaverde to check for comprehension. Then the nurse speaks again and the LEP appears puzzled. Ever the diplomat I ask “May the interpreter clarify?” to clear up any misunderstanding. Perhaps I whine here. My point is, I don’t begin to know how to practice medicine. I do know how to interpret. How do you politely intervene when a provider insists on speaking poor Spanish? I’d like to hear from you.