¿En qué le puedo ayudar?
¿En qué le puedo ayudar? Or, translated into English, “How can I help you?”
That phrase led the way on October 17, when St. Vincent’s Medical Center held a free healthcare fair and clinic for the local community at Cesar Batalla School in Bridgeport, Connecticut.
Designed as a one-stop shop for a person’s entire healthcare needs, this event even included interpretation services for the large population of Spanish-speaking residents. Many of the interpreters were Fairfield students from Dr. Michelle Farrell’s Spanish course “Career-Oriented Spanish for Nursing and Health Sciences.”
Dr. Farrell, assistant professor of Spanish in the College of Arts and Sciences’ Department of Modern Languages and Literatures, designed the course for advanced Spanish students interested in nursing and the health sciences. In addition to in-class work focused on cultural readings, vocabulary and grammar in healthcare, Dr. Farrell developed a pilot service-learning component where students assist as interpreters at local healthcare events.
Dr. Farrell said, “I worked with nursing professors Drs. Kathleen Lovanio and Jessica Planas from the School of Nursing over the summer to collaborate with their health and wellness classes and work in health fairs. Dr. Lovanio expressed that this particular fair at St. Vincent’s would need our help as interpreters. I knew my students were up for the challenge.”
Catherine Petitti ’17, a nursing major and Spanish minor, said that the event was fantastic. “There were so many options for the patients. Even if they were perfectly healthy, they could still learn so much information!”
Patients were paired with an interpreter who would help them navigate each station, which included recording vital signs, taking background medical histories and administering flu and tetanus shots. In addition, stations on nutrition, general health and mental health were also available. Volunteers were on hand to interpret and share the information with patients.
Petitti said the experience was overwhelmingly positive for all of the students. “We enjoyed interacting with our patients and I was thrilled to have the chance to practice my Spanish with a very nice Spanish-speaking lady. I was pleased and surprised at how much I understood. We talked about her family and her mother, who is still living in Mexico. I relayed information on her vital signs to her and talked about healthy blood pressure numbers. She was diabetic, so I also talked to her about the importance of eating correct meals.”
Dr. Farrell said, “This was an exceptional opportunity for our students to contribute to while also learn from the community. It has also marked a game changer in our class conversations on healthcare and social justice. It’s so much more than merely interpreting the Spanish word for ‘kidney,’” she said.
Students agreed. “This was an incredible experience and I was so happy that I participated,” said Petitti. “I felt great leaving the fair, knowing that I truly helped someone in a long-lasting way.”
Morgan Laiter, a nursing major, said, “I feel so blessed to have been able to take part in such an amazing experience because of this course. I truly believe that the nursing program as well as anyone heading into the medical field should either take this course or take part in some of the service-learning opportunities.”
Top image, L-R: Junior-year students Shauna Dresel, Fnu Wathone, Morgan Laiter, Sarah Morrissette and Catherine Petitti.
Bottom right image: Catherine Petitti with a Bridgeport, Conn., community member.