With the growing number of non-English speakers immigrating to the United States and seeking healthcare, physicians are finding themselves increasingly challenged to bridge the communication barrier. According to the American Medical Association, it has been found that approximately 64% of U.S. patients with limited English backgrounds speak Spanish. As rising physicians, pre-medical students are faced with the task of minimizing the disparity in healthcare quality.
The benefits of having physicians familiar with Spanish are numerous. For example, according to the New York Sun, aspiring physicians feel that they can form better relationships with patients by speaking their language. An important part of practicing medicine is creating a lasting bond with those you treat. Patients tend to feel more comfortable when then can freely converse with their doctors. Jasmine Chandy, a pre-health student, serves as a medical interpreter in a healthcare facility. For her, Spanish-speaking physicians are essential in the medical field. She says, “When describing such detailed instructions as how much insulin to take and how many times per day, or when trying to understand symptoms well enough to decipher if the problem is something common or life threatening, language is nothing short of vital.” With this in mind, it is especially important for pre-medical students to join in the initiative to standardize Spanish curriculum.
One possible method to achieving streamlined medical education is to include certain electives that teach medical terminology in Spanish. The American Medical Association’s Journal of Ethics calls on physicians to, at the very least, learn how to properly communicate with an interpreter who is part of an interdisciplinary healthcare team. However, it is to the benefit of the physician-patient relationship to have physicians reasonably acquainted with the Spanish language. This instruction should begin during the physicians’ undergraduate careers. Pre-medical students are aware of the increasingly diverse populations that they will encounter as healthcare providers. For this reason, it is important that we strive to broaden our academic horizons for the sake of our future patients.