Imagine going to a foreign country and suddenly becoming ill and require emergency surgery. When you awaken from the procedure you find yourself with a nurse at the bedside. She can’t understand you and you can’t understand her. It’s an unpleasant reality that is lived by many Spanish-speaking patients in the United States every day. However, something can be done to improve their experience and the patient care you deliver. Nurses can learn a few key phrases to help those patients feel more at ease. Ramona Vega has outlined several Spanish phrases that every nurse should know.
A few years ago I moved to this wonderful country with my mind set up on being the best nurse I could be, and my experience has been amazing. At the beginning I was terrified with the idea of living in a new country with a different language, but the experience has been very rewarding. I would never thought about working with people from all around the world (patients and coworkers), a dream come true, thanks to the resources that hospitals provide to health care team and clients. Because communication enhances our quality of care, patient safety, and of course our cultural sensitivity.
Translators have changed the way of health care, a wonderful tool that helps us provide quality care, promotes patient safety and of course help us to be cultural sensitive. As a bilingual nurse (Spanish native speaker), I found myself being the translator of my unit, when the Spanish translators weren’t available. Funny thing is that most of the time patients only needed simple things like help to get to the restroom, water, among other simple tasks, so my coworkers, because they are so smart, started asking me for simple and easy phrases in Spanish that help them avoid falls, code browns, and all that fun extra stuff that we want (or not) to deal in our very busy shift. So here is the list:
10 Phrases Every Nurse Should Know in Spanish
- Hello, my name is ____________ and I’ll be your nurse
Hola, me llamo __________________ y soy su enfermera (o).
- Do you want to use the restroom?
Quiere ir al baño?
- Do you want to take a shower?
- Ask for help before you get up
Llame antes de levantarse
- Are you hungry / thirsty
Tiene Hambre / Sed?
- Are you in pain?
- Don’t throw away urine/ stool
No tire la orina / popo
- Do you feel lightheaded/ dizzy?
Se siente mareado?
- Use the call light if you need help
Use el botón para ayuda
- I’ll be back in a moment
Regreso en un momento
Video of Spanish Phrases for Nurses
Spanish is a rich language full of synonyms, and the way I present this phrases, is the simplest way, for patients to understand and for us to say them. We attached a video where you can listen the pronunciation.
If you have more suggestions please let us know and will be very happy to add them in our list.
More Spanish Resources for Nurses
Get 10% off the course Care for the Hispanic Patient: A Cross-Cultural Approach with promo code NERDYNURSE.
Medical Spanish Made Incredibly Quick! (Incredibly Easy! Series®)Spanish for Health Care ProfessionalsMcGraw-Hill Education Complete Medical Spanish: Practical Medical Spanish for Quick and Confident Communication (NTC Foreign Language)Spanish Medical Conversation (Quickstudy: Academic)Spanish Medical Dictionary:: Spanish-English English-SpanishSpanish for the Busy Medical ProfessionalSpanish for NursesSPANISH FOR NURSES POCKET GUIDEMedical Spanish Pocketcard Set
What phrases do you think every nurse should know in Spanish?
Special Thanks to:
The Nerdy Nurse for your idea and support and George Beasley III, my husband, who help me with the voice in English and editing the video.
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About the Author
Ramona Vega is a Hispanic nurse that moved to the United States following the American dream, working in one of the biggest medical centers in the world, has open her eyes and heart to new nursing fields and cultures.
Being a nurse is in her blood cells, coming from a long line of nurses in her family, taking care of others felt so
natural that, after four years of nursing in her country, she decided to go beyond borders and language in order to achieve marvelous things.
“Passion is the perfect word to describe what I feel for my carrier, once you lost it, is time to move to another field,” she says while drinking her tea.
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12 thoughts on “10 Phrases Every Nurse Should Know in Spanish”
Thanks for the post! I’m a new RN, just started orientation 2 weeks ago. I met with my preceptor on the floor for the first time a few days ago and he made the comment, “Working here, you’re gonna need to learn Spanish”.
Thank you for posting this! Very helpful!
Add “Tomar una respiración profunda.” (take a deep breath) to the list for the post operative patient.
Great post! I was rounding with patients the other day and needed to use interpreter services for Spanish, French and Italian! Quick access to a certified interpreter is a fabulous tool, however it still takes time. Knowing and understanding basic phrases, especially in Spanish, really helps nurses to connect immediately with that patient. Thank you!
I recall as a new nurse I was called to the pediatric unit to translate for a new admission on a Sunday evening. Everything was going great. All the staff were amazed they were able to have a real nurse translator helping them. That is until I got to one particular question…”When was your last bowel movement”. I turned beet red and stammered.
The other nurses edged me on until I finally confessed. I don’t know how to say “bowel movement” in Spanish. They kept telling me I was doing great. The family was really comfortable with me and seemed pleased and very grateful to have a fluent speaker. I was embarrassed. I finally admitted that I only knew one word for bowel movement and I learned in the Navy on an aircraft carrier and that after you eat it, you die. They were laughing and told me to go ahead. I kept telling them I could not ask that because the parents would beat the bowel movement out of me if I asked their six year old son when was the last time he took a ****.
I got really smart. If I did not know the word, I could explain the word. So I asked “When was the last time you sat down and something came out from under you from back there”. He replied, “Esta manana”. Oh yes this was working. I was so proud. Now all I needed was the color and how big of a bowel movement. He replied “Blanco” . I pumped my fist and smiled. I was so proud and the other nurses were so thankful to have their admission completed. Next question…”Que largo”. The little boy’s eyes beamed as he stretched his hands out and said “Tres pies”. I faltered, floundered, and flopped down tho the chair in frustration. Something had changed in Spanish for sure. I asked again. Same answer. In defeat I told the other nurses we were not speaking the same language. I had a different dialect or age of Spanish because there was no possible way I had asked him the right question.
The other nurses poked fun to cheer me up because I had made a mockery of my new assignment as a Spanish translator for the off shifts. I looked over at the boy and asked “Did it hurt when it came out”. He replied “No, it just crossed the road and went into the grass”. Hysterically, I told the other nurses that there pediatric abdominal pain rule out virus or appendix was actually a tapeworm. When I talked to the parents more, I knew exactly which migrant apple orchard they were hired to work. It was infamous for having neither plumbing nor electricity.
Sometimes an uneducated nurse is better than the smartest physician.
What a funny story, Jeffrey, thanks. We have a lot of british patients at our hospitals in Alicante, Spain, and the misunderstandings are very frequent.
gracias Brittney Wilson
Great list Ramona….how about including…Are you allergic to medicine? food?
That’s awesome… very nice list. Great spanish phrases for non-nurses too!
Thank you. Our guest blogger did a fantastic job with this!
This is excellent! I am including it in my Roundup over at http://www.straightanursingstudent.com. THANK YOU FOR THIS!!!
Thank you so much for including it. The credit all goes to Ramona, the guest blogger.