I work at a clinic where the patients are a good 80% Hispanic and mainly speak Spanish with little or no English. I'm Hispanic but I am not fluent in Spanish. I try to speak the best Spanish I can….it's rather choppy but I try.
Today, it was brought to my attention I need to reword my phrases. I call patients who are on antidepressant/antianxiety medications to follow up on how they are doing. For six years, I've said the same phrase in Spanish (funny thing is, I think I can say the phrase in Spanish better than I can in English!) ~ I never had a complaint….until today.
Yesterday, I made a follow up call on a female patient whose husband answered the phone. I asked for her, he asked who I was, I identified myself and the clinic. He wanted to know why I was calling. Now, being a clinic and keeping the confidentiality, I couldn't tell him how she was doing on the medications so instead I told him in Spanish I was calling to see how she was doing. He raised his voice and asked me why I needed to know how his wife was doing. I, again, repeated if she was home, he said no. So I thanked him and said I would call again in the afternoon.
Today, he and his wife went into the clinic and asked to speak to the Director. After they left, the Director called me into his office and said the husband misunderstood my wording. He understood my asking how his wife was doing as me wanting to personally say hello to her. Say what?! I repeated to the Director what I said in Spanish to the husband and he informed me what I had said was easily misinterpreted by the husbands standards because he was a very machismo kind of man. I most certainly did not mean to hit on his wife! Nor give any inclination I was interested!
So now, the Director handed me a phrase in writing the appropriate way to ask how a paient is doing without my words having a different meaning! Geez, after six years, I thought I was doing ok…but apparently not. Now, I have to practice the words so not to offend anyone again. Oh well, never too late to learn something new!