Building Trust Through a Second Language
"¿Habla Español?" Ask an increasing number of Pacific's doctor of pharmacy (PharmD) students and their response will be, "Si!"
Since 2014, the Spanish for the Pharmacy Professional I and II elective courses have helped more than 250 students improve their ability to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients.
Before joining the Pacific faculty, Edward L. Rogan, PharmD, BCACP, assistant professor of pharmacy practice, was a community pharmacist. He witnessed countless interactions where language barriers prevented Spanish-speaking patients from receiving the best possible care.
Starting in 2005, Dr. Rogan served as a guest speaker at Pacific, giving presentations on how pharmacists can use Spanish to better serve their patients. When he joined the pharmacy faculty in 2014, he partnered with Veronica T. Bandy '00, '08, MS, PharmD, FCPhA, FCSHP, clinical professor of pharmacy practice, to implement the Spanish elective courses. "I wanted to help teach students to use the Spanish they already know to be able to help their Spanish-speaking patients have better outcomes with their medications," said Dr. Rogan.
The elective courses use a peer-to-peer instruction model. Teaching assistants are responsible for leading small group discussions and hosting sessions to practice conversational Spanish centered around pharmacy scenarios.
David Carranza '19, third-year pharmacy student, was raised in a household that was exclusively Spanish-speaking and served as a teaching assistant for the elective. "Helping students grow in their capacity to serve a larger population was a rewarding experience," Carranza said. "This was an opportunity to share my skills to empower others to be better equipped to serve the community, especially the local Stockton community."
Each year, approximately 60 PharmD students go through the Spanish elective courses. Their classmates often rely upon them to serve as translators at health care outreach events. Many also serve as members of SALUD, the student health care committee focused on serving the local Spanish-speaking community.
Carlos A. Villalba-Galea, PhD, assistant professor of physiology and pharmacology, was born and raised in Venezuela. He assists with developing exercises designed to help build cultural awareness. "Culture is embedded in the language and shapes the language," he explained. "Trying to do literal translations doesn't make sense because you are giving up a piece of the culture. There is a lot of background that you have to understand in order to communicate."
Learning a second language not only breaks down language barriers, it can help students build trust with their patients. "If you even attempt to speak Spanish, it breaks down many barriers," Dr. Rogan said. "It shows that you have respect for their culture and for them as an individual." Speaking from personal experience, he added, "The fact that you are trying can really open doors. We were learning each other's language and culture. It's a fantastic bond that I developed with my patients."
Source: San Joaquin Council of Governments, sjcog.org, June 2018.
Population of San Joaquin
County by Ethnicity
about the author
Dua Her is the Director of External Relations and Professional Development at Pacific's Thomas J. Long School of Pharmacy.