Sunday, July 14, 2024

Leavenworth Spanish provides online Spanish course specifically for medical professionals


LEAVENWORTH – Leavenworth Spanish offers an online medical Spanish course that medical professionals can use to build rapport with patients, no matter their Spanish speaking level.

“The way that I set this up is that it's a combination of beginner Spanish and medical Spanish, where if you already have the background in Spanish, there's going to be some really great for grammatical review and then a lot of medical vocabulary, and if you have no Spanish, then it's going to be a great intro that is targeted specifically towards your professional life,” said Morgan Fraser, the founder of Leavenworth Spanish.

The course consists of 14 lessons, with each including a variation of video lecture, vocabulary lists with audio enunciations, and a quiz. Some lessons also include a video reenactment between a medical professional and a patient of common scenarios, such as a basic check-up, a cold or flu visit, a women’s health appointment, or an emergency visit. The videos have Spanish subtitles, along with Spanish and English scripts attached.

“That's really what I think makes it different and more dynamic than other courses that I've seen that are just like, “I'm going to give you a video about grammar, and then I'm going to quiz you on it,’” said Fraser.

The design of the course is intended for providers from any location to be able to go at their own pace, around their work schedule. It’s also eligible for six continuing education (CE) credits or six clock hours through the North Central Educational Service District (NCESD).

“It's helpful to anyone who has patients that are Spanish speakers…Because it's an on demand course that people can take on their own time, there's really no limit. Geographically, there's no limit,” said Fraser.

While the program can have a wide impact geographically, there is a local need for it. Confluence Health’s 2022 Community Health Needs Assessment reported 32.4 percent of its service area identified as Hispanic or Latino, which spans across Chelan, Douglas, Grant, and Okanogan counties. 

A 2020 report done by the Latino Center for Health at the University of Washington identified all four of these counties in the top ten counties with the highest Latino populations in the state, with Grant County having the highest population percentage in that group, at 43 percent.

Leavenworth Spanish has typically offered standard Spanish classes for kids and adults, with language immersion trips to Mexico. However, some of those students were medical professionals, who showed an interest to Fraser in learning medical-specific Spanish, to better connect with their patients.

“I had a lot of people that would say, “I'm really interested in medical Spanish,” but that is a very large concept and there's so many different medical specialties…It took me a year to figure out how to possibly put together a class that works for the most amount of people,” said Fraser.

The course is a very basic introduction to medical Spanish, and is by no means a tool to replace a professional medical interpreter. However, it is an opportunity for medical providers to minimize the language and cultural gaps between them and their patients. Fraser considers it a first step to building rapport.

The 2020 report by the Latino Center for Health reported an estimated 16,967 Spanish-speaking individuals resided in Chelan County, making up 23.9 percent of the population, yet only three physicians in the county were bilingual and Latino.

When Fraser decided to create the course, she saw the need to bridge that gap, but also recognized the cultural and contextual limitations of just providing the language basics as a non-native speaker herself.

“I want this to be as authentic as possible, and I understand that me being bilingual but not a native speaker makes that more difficult. So, I wanted to make sure that I was taking all the right steps to ensure that what we were offering was [as close] to the real thing as possible,” said Fraser.

Fraser collaborated with Manuel Ramos Castro, a Spanish professor with a background in theater, of whom she met through her language immersion trips. He was able to help write the scripts, as well as recruit a small team of native Spanish speakers from both Mexico and Argentina, who could act and produce the video scenarios.

The course not only provides the specific vocabulary, but also goes so far as to address the cultural differences in medical settings between the U.S. and Mexico. Lesson one provides the perspectives of two Mexican instructors who introduce standard differences such as formal and informal address, or social interaction nuances. The instructors also breakdown the differences in the U.S. medical system and that of Mexico’s, discussing types of institutions and protocols, and even sharing what it’s like to see a U.S. doctor for the first time.

According to Fraser, a provider who can be aware of those differences and speak even just a few words of Spanish, can help patients feel less alone. 

“I have a lot of empathy for the people who move here who are looking for a better life and who can't communicate basic needs, and are therefore thought sort of dismissed. I want to help them have better interactions. It feels like a very easy thing to provide tools to people who already want to create rapport, so that they can create rapport. That's, like, my target audience…the people who want to be able to make their patients feel comfortable, and I can help with that,” said Fraser.

Taylor Caldwell: 509-433-7276 or


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