Transcending the Language Barriers

Going into a trip like this, I was nervous to dedicate myself to servitude of a community of a culture I did not understand. Over the past seven months myself and my peers have been studying and learning about Guatemala’s culture, economy, language, and spirit. Even though we met and practiced our Spanish many times, I had felt nervous getting off the bus for our first day. As a nursing student, caring for Spanish speaking patients in hospitals in Denver was challenging, having a very limited vocabulary and understanding of spoken word, this impacted my confidence of delivering the quality of care that those people deserved. Traveling to an unfamiliar community, whose culture I don’t understand, and attempting to serve them in the ways they need, was terrifying.  Though the people I met, and spoke with, limited as those conversations may have been without an interpreter, I realized that the things that transcended the language barrier was compassion, and gratitude. Not only were the people of Ciudad de la Esperanza grateful, patient, kind, and willing to receive care from us, they were supportive of our learning. In triage, it was the students role to take vital signs and ‘chart’ the findings before passing them off to the physician that they needed to visit with. When I was working with my patients I was able to start their visit off smoothly, and even when I wasn’t able to accurately craft my intended statements to them, they were kind to me and let me try again. It was a beautiful feeling knowing that in order for me to show them compassion and care, they showed me that same kindness first, allowing me to learn to better treat them.

-Genavieve Szumski 


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