I Don’t Read Spanish

Question:

My hospital in CA routinely puts up sign for contact isolation in Spanish only, and then the nursing staff for not understanding them rebukes me. I do not read Spanish. These times that I fail to follow isolation rules can be reported to my supervisor and can get me fired. Is this fair? Also the hospital requires me to use consent forms that are in Spanish for those who primarily speak Spanish. While they understand the form, I have no idea what it says. I am concerned that if am asked what it says in court I can’t defend my signature. Is it safe for non-Spanish readers to work here?

Signed,

Is this fair?


Answer:

DearĀ Is this fair?:

Have you spoken with your hospital administrator and/or Human Resources about these two matters? We don’t provide legal advice; however, probably you can resolve your worry by meeting with those who make the rules in your hospital. You should not be required to read Spanish if that wasn’t a requirement when you were hired, and you shouldn’t be required to sign documents that you can’t read. Therefore, it seems reasonable that signs should be posted in both English and Spanish and that someone who can read Spanish should only sign forms in Spanish. Meet with the appropriate individuals and voice your concerns. They are reasonable, and I’m sure some accommodation can be made. Also check with your state’s Department of Labor to learn if an employer is required to have a translator when dealing with individuals who don’t speak English. Meanwhile, take every opportunity to learn Spanish. Even a little should improve the relationship you have with coworkers and patients who speak that language. Also don’t allow this language barrier to distract you from your commitment to deliver the best care possible. And that begins and ends with a positive mental attitude; one that shines forth in caring hands, head and heart. My signature advice undoubtedly applies in your workplace: Working together with hands, head, and heart takes and makes big WEGOS. Think about that as you work through this worry. Follow Up Thanks for your input I have reported the sign issue two times and have been assured that it would not happen again but … it did Our informed consent policy is so difficult that no one likes it but the hospital administration does not care and the medical staff has tried to work with the administration and the county legal office. The legal office agrees with the issue but the hospital administration will not budge.

I am a chain-of-command type guy from the military so the issue is what to do when you continually get illegal orders? Soooo you comply??? Or you persist and become a pain in the ass. Or you think creatively. You have been effective in seeking that signs of isolation are bilingual, but apparently the orders simply haven’t been followed. Might you have a stack of such signs prepared? If they were readily available, that should educate and cause them to be used. Might not the same tactic be applied in regard to the consent form? Surely your legal department and HR could have someone assure you that signing off on a translated bilingual form is ok and not illegal. Since you are a chain-of-command guy, registering your request in writing on these two matters should CYA.

Or you could bring in the State on this, but that that would set you up as an adversary to your hospital administration and really that would not be necessary if you could get the above bilingual solution. In light of your follow up, from here I predict that you might also be caring-enough-kind-of-guy to find creative solutions and to persist-with-a-smile-kind-of-guy to overcome apathy/resistance. Or quietly you can find someone who knows both English and Spanish to translate before you sign something you can’t understand.

William Gorden