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Healthy Balance

More Than Hola: Staff Learns Spanish for Patients

These UVA nurses are learning Spanish in their spare time to improve communication with their patients
Anne Stadelmaier, RN, Beth Bradley, RN, Cookie Leonardi, HUC, Angel Cyphert, RN, and Dayton Johnston, PCA, are learning Spanish in their spare time to improve communication with their patients.

When Angel Cyphert, an RN in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU), started working at UVA 25 years ago, there were few Spanish-speaking patients. Over the years, that population has grown and she and her co-workers began to get frustrated with their inability to communicate with their patients.

Spanish for Patients

That’s why Cyphert and nine co-workers began learning Spanish. “We wanted more than the few words we needed to get by. We wanted to show them that we care enough to learn Spanish and tune in to their culture,” she says.

Members of the PACU and the surgical admission suite each pitched in $50 to pay for the Rosetta Stone language-instruction software. When their busy schedules allow, they spend a few minutes each day learning Spanish. Their manager, Karen Thomas, RN, has been supportive of their efforts. She says, “The staff is careful not to let their lessons impact patient care and realize that some days they may not get in their lesson, but when they are waiting for a patient to arrive, it is a good use of their time.”

“The more I practice and use it, the more comfortable I am with it. People are laughing at me less — I’m using the language more correctly,” says Anne Stadelmaier, an RN in the PACU who initiated this effort.

Interpreter Services

UVA provides foreign and sign language interpreters to help patients communicate with our staff. If you need an interpreter, tell our staff when you schedule an appointment or when you are admitted, or call 434.982.1794.

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