Tag Archives: Spanish medical terminology

¡Buen Viaje!: Three Reasons to Serve Overseas If You’re Training in the Medical Field

Now that summer has hit, all of you students heading toward the healthcare field have time to think beyond your textbooks. It’s a big world out there with lots of opportunities. As you map out the rest of the year and look ahead, here are three reasons to consider making an international service trip part of your plans.

1. Be Stretched

Unless you’re one of those special people who just naturally goes with the flow, most of us find being in a new place with strangers, eating strange food and hearing a possibly strange-sounding language a bit s-t-r-e-t-c-h-i-n-g. But as we’ve all been told before, getting out of our comfort zones can be a very good thing! In fact, if you are training in the medical profession, getting used to a rubberband life may really help you. After all, healthcare is a constantly changing field. Stretching international experiences can also make for good stories…At least they might be more interesting than that inorganic chemistry course you thought might kill you last semester!

2. Build People Skills

Whether we realize it or not, many medical personnel spend a great deal of each day interacting with people. Patients, patients’ families, and coworkers, not to mention our own families and friends, all come into play. Beyond that, aren’t many of us here because we want to help people? If that’s the case, we need to be good at working with them. While we can read all of the books we can find (and some of them may be helpful), a lot of people-reading skills are built by hands-on experiences and watching how others handle situations. Sure, you may feel more comfortable looking into your microscope, but. hey, if nothing else, realize that doing some things that involve people will look good on your med school applications or resume.

3. Bless Others

Like we said, many of us in medical professions (or heading toward them) are doing what we’re doing because we want to help people. Of course, we strive to do this every day no matter where we are. However, imagine serving people who have limited access to quality care. For example, in 2011 there were 2.45 physicians per 1,000 people in the US while there were 0.47 in Bolivia, 0.36 in Bangladesh, 0.08 in Zimbabwe and (2009) 0.93 in Guatemala[1]. In nations like these, you could be a part of hands-on medical work (a definite plus) and meet a real need. While you may encounter a rare tropical disease or two, in communities around the world, men, women and children struggle with common and treatable yet untreated conditions. Maybe our heads, hearts and hands are supposed to be the ones to help them.

Do you have plans to use your medical skills to serve abroad this summer or later this year? We’d love to hear where you’re headed and what inspired you to buy your ticket! And if Guatemala or its nearby neighbors are on your route, don’t forget to pick up your own copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient: A Glossary of Spanish Medical Terms and Folk Medicine and share your feedback with us.

1 CIA The World Factbook  https://www.cia.gov/Library/publications/the-world-factbook/fields/2226.html (accessed 24 May 2015).

Another way to say “pterygium”

You’re in the middle of another day at the downtown clinic. You work here often as an interpreter serving the large Hispanic community. Some of the patients have even gotten to know you a bit. You’ve built up trust because you’ve worked hard to really speak their language and show them you care.

You’re pretty sure you could diagnose the patient yourself. The presence of surfer’s eye – pterygium – is pretty obvious. You haven’t spent all this time with medical people without picking up a thing or two! But you wait until the doctor gives the clear diagnosis. Then you pull up the Spanish medical dictionary in your brain and explain to the patient that he has pterigión. 

When the patient gives you a blank stare, you decide to try a more on-the-street explanation in case it helps. You know the patient is of Guatemalan heritage, so you pull out one of your speaking-like-a-local-phrases and say, “Tal vez lo llaman carnosidad del ojo.

The patient grins, “Ah, sí. Ya entiendo.”

You smile and go on to explain the treatment and answer questions.

That night, you pull Understanding the Guatemalan Patient off your handy shelf and put a check mark by “pterygium carnosidad del ojo”.

You like to keep track of the terms you’ve used from this little book. So far, you’ve used quite a few. It makes you happy to know that you were able to continue serving and building trust today because you knew just the words to use. Maybe you’ll look through this pocket-size book tonight to give yourself a refresher.

Purchase your copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient  today on Amazon!


It’s been a long day. You’re a nurse on a mission trip in Guatemala, and the heat must be getting to you a bit. But it looks like this is your last patient for the day. The fact that she doesn’t speak English doesn’t bother you. After all, you’ve taken several Spanish classes. During your week here in Guatemala, you’ve been doing pretty well so far.

When you ask what’s wrong, she says, “Me duele el pesquezo.

Pesquezo? That’s a new one! Casually, you glance around. Where is that translator when you need him? No where to be found apparently.

You decide to try to figure it out. You ask her to show you where it hurts. She put her hand on her neck and shows you how it hurts when she moves her head.

Ah-hah! Now you’re getting somewhere. You proceed with the visit and wrap up another rewarding day seeing patients at a special rural clinic.

That night you tell one of your team members about pesquezo. She, also a nurse, says, “Oh, that means ‘neck’, right?”

“Yeah,” you say, “I think so. But how do you know?”

She pulls a little blue book out of her backpack. “I bought this before we came. That word’s in here. It’s says pesquezo is formally used to mean an animal’s neck. I guess that’s why we didn’t learn it in school.”

“Hey, why didn’t I know about this?” you wonder, thumbing through the spiral-bound, pocket-sized book.

“Well, you can look at it tonight if you want,” your friend says. “It’s been really helpful to me.”

“Thanks. That would be great. Then maybe I’ll get my own copy before our next trip.”

Heading out on a medical mission trip to Guatemala or southern Mexico? Make sure everyone on your team is prepared with a copy of Understanding the Guatemalan Patient ! Check out the special bulk package on Amazon of 8 copies for on $48. (Offer available through April 30, 2015.) Happy reading and happy travels! 



to become infected

Today one of your patients is from a rural area of Guatemala. Thanks to your prior interactions with her, you know that she uses more slang expressions than otherwise. You need to explain  how to care for her injury so that it doesn’t become infected. Instead of the traditional phraseology, you decide to try out a new word you learned from that pocket-sized, blue book you keep in your desk drawer. After the word, “inconarse” leaves your lips, a smile brightens your patient’s face. You’ve connected.

infected, to become

inconarse, madurar

give birth (v.)

This week’s post will be especially useful to midwives, OBs, and nurses serving expecting Hispanic women. You know the joy of walking women through a very special season of their lives and being a part of new lives enteringIMG_9973 the world. We hope Understanding the Guatemalan Patient helps you to communicate clearly so you can do the best possible job with your important work.

give birth (v.)

alentarse, dar luz, dar a luz, componerse