SICK IN LATIN AMERICA? All Spanish you need for a DOCTOR’S VISIT!

All the Spanish you need for a DOCTOR’S VISIT!

Did you get ill in Latin America, and the thought of going to the doctor and explaining everything in Spanish makes you even more sick? 

Learn all the Spanish you need to communicate with doctors, and get healthy soon! 

I’m Spring Spanish teacher, Maura, and let’s start with calling for an appointment.

1. The phone call

The most important thing in this lesson are the categories. Inside each, we’ll cover examples within the most common contexts.

Let’s start with a typical phone call:

ACTOR 1
Hola, buenas tardes. Necesito hacer una cita para revisión.
(Hello, good afternoon. I need to make an appointment for a checkup.)

ACTOR 2
Buenas tardes. Dígame su nombre, por favor.
(Good afternoon. Tell me your name, please.)

ACTOR 1
Claudia Torani. Soy turista y no hablo español fluidamente. Agradecería si pudiese hablarme despacio. 
(Claudia Torani. I am a tourist and do not speak Spanish fluently. I would appreciate it if you could speak slowly.)

ACTOR 2
Seguro. Dígame el motivo de su llamada.
(Sure. Tell me the reason for your call.)

ACTOR 1
Me he estado sintiendo mal del estómago por varios días.
(I have been feeling sick from my stomach for several days.)

ACTOR 2
Entendido. Le haré una cita con la Doctora Gutierrez. ¿Tiene seguro médico?
(Got it. I will make an appointment for you with Dr. Gutierrez. Do you have medical insurance?)

ACTOR 1
Sí. 
(Yes.)

ACTOR 2
Genial. La cita más cercana que tenemos es para mañana a las dos de la tarde.
(Great. The closest appointment we have is for tomorrow at 2 in the afternoon.)

ACTOR 1
Perfecto. ¡Muchas gracias!
(Perfect. Thank you very much!)

2. Symptoms

One of the most relevant variations of the phone call would be your symptoms. So, let’s go over a few other typical health issues. For things that hurt, use: me duele (it hurts). After that, you can add any body part that hurts. Maria Fernanda made a great video about body parts that can help you out with that. You can watch it here. 

Other typical ailments could be:

  • Tengo tos. (I have a cough.)
  • Tengo flema. (I have phlegm.)
  • Me arde: la garganta, el pecho, el estómago. (It burns: my throat, my chest, my stomach.)
  • Me pica: la espalda, la cabeza, todo el cuerpo. (It itches: my back, my head, the entire body.) 

Remember, you can add any body part after the chunk. You could also need to say there are abnormal things you can’t do. For that use: no puedo (I can’t). Then add the verb. For example:

  • No puedo tragar. (I can’t swallow.)
  • No puedo respirar. (I can’t breathe.)
  • No puedo mover: la pierna, el brazo, el cuello. (I can’t move: the leg, the arm, the neck.)

Another thing that could happen that I want to go through with you is if your answer to: ¿Tienes seguro médico? (Do you have medical insurance?). In this case, you should ask:

  • ¿Cuánto cuesta la consulta? (How much does the consultation cost?)
  • ¿Cómo puedo pagar? (How can I pay?)

To which they could answer an amount of money, so check your numbers. Things like:

  • Cincuenta dólares o cuatrocientos pesos. (50 dollars or 400 pesos.)

Or

  • Con efectivo o tarjeta. (With cash or card.)

Lastly, make sure to confirm details at the end by saying something like: Le repito la información para que me confirme. (I will repeat the information for you to confirm.) Doctora Gutierrez, mañana a las dos de la tarde. (Dr. Gutierrez, tomorrow at 2 in the afternoon.)

Also, watch until the end if you want to make sure you won’t mistake instructions given by your doctor, and end up undressing yourself when you don’t have to!

3. At the reception

As soon as you walk through the door and find the receptionist, this is what could happen:

ACTOR 1
Hola. Tengo cita con la Doctora Gutierrez a las dos.
(Hi. I have an appointment with Dr. Gutierrez at 2.)

ACTOR 2
Muy bien. Su nombre, identificación y la documentación del seguro, por favor.
(Very good. Your name, ID, and insurance documentation, please.)

ACTOR 1
Claudia Torani. Aquí tiene. 
(Claudia Torani. Here you go.)

ACTOR 2
Tome asiento, por favor. Le llamarán para ser atendida.
(Have a seat, please. You will be called to be attended.)

Maybe this is a bigger place, and they tell you to go somewhere else. In this case, you could hear things like:

  • Primera planta (First floor) or any number floor for that matter.
  • A la izquierda o a la derecha. (To the left or to the right.)
  • Al final del pasillo. (At the end of the hallway.)
  • Subiendo o bajando las escaleras. (Up or down the stairs.)

Once you’re done with the doctor, which we’ll go over in a second, you may have to talk to the receptionist again. Probably to pay, in case you don’t have insurance and the like:

ACTOR 2
¿Todo listo?
(All set?)

ACTOR 1
Si, gracias. Quería pagar, por favor.
(Yes, thank you. I would like to pay, please.)

ACTOR 2
Por supuesto. ¿Efectivo o tarjeta?
(Of course. Cash or card?)

ACTOR 1
Tarjeta. También, la doctora me dijo que hiciera una cita para un examen de sangre.
(Card. Also, the doctor told me to make an appointment for a blood test.)

ACTOR 2
Muy bien. Tiene que estar en ayunas, así que sería para mañana. ¿A las siete de la mañana le viene bien? 
(All right. You have to be fasting, so it would be for tomorrow. Seven in the morning works for you?)

ACTOR 1
Sí. ¿Se hace aquí mismo?
(Yes. Is it done right here?)

ACTOR 2
Sí, en la planta de abajo. Aquí tiene la orden que deberá presentar.
(Yes, downstairs. Here is the form you will need to submit.)

These doctor’s procedures are generally standardized in Latin America. Sobre todo si vas a un centro privado, que es lo más habitual para nosotros. (Especially if you go to a private center, which is the most common for us.) So, just make sure to say all the typical things you’d guess they need to know. That way you’ll be able to avoid part of the questioning, which is always a good idea if you don’t feel super comfortable with the language. 

Chunk alert!

Estar en ayunas (To be fasting) is the type of chunk you will hardly hear outside a medical context, but that is so common within it. If there are other ways to refer to this, they are certainly not usual, and estar en ayunas is definitely the quintessential way to talk about this in Spanish. 

Down below, you can find the link to our free Essential Spanish Chunking kit, with chunks far more common but just as important as this one. 

4. With the doctor

Now, during your visit with the doctor, you’ll have to repeat the symptoms you talked about during your phone call, adding as much detail as you can. Además, el médico te hará preguntas específicas sobre el contexto de tus síntomas. (Also, the doctor will ask specific questions regarding the context of your symptoms.) Let’s use a COVID scenario as an example, and go through a typical conversation:

ACTOR 1
Buenos días. Tome asiento, por favor. Dígame, ¿qué le sucede?
(Good morning. Have a seat, please. Tell me, what's wrong?)

ACTOR 2
Buenos días, doctora. Llevo una semana de vacaciones aquí y hace dos días empecé a sentir malestar general y he tenido un poco de fiebre.
(Good morning, doctor. I have been on vacation here for a week and two days ago I started to feel general discomfort and have had a slight fever.)

ACTOR 1
Entiendo. ¿Ha estado en contacto con algún caso positivo de covid?
(I see. Have you been in contact with any covid positive cases?)

ACTOR 2
No que yo sepa.
(Not that I know of.)

ACTOR 1
¿Sufre de alguna condición especial o toma algún medicamento?
(Do you suffer from any special condition or take any medication?)

ACTOR 1
No.
(No.)

ACTOR 1
Dígame, ¿qué más siente?
(Tell me, what else do you feel?)

ACTOR 2
Presión en el pecho y mucha molestia en la garganta.
(Chest pressure and a lot of discomfort in the throat.)

ACTOR 1
Bien. Le dejo una orden para que pida cita en recepción para hacerse el test de antígenos. Mientras esperamos resultados, le daré un récipe para que compre acetaminofén en la farmacia. 
(Good. I'll leave an order for you to make an appointment at the front desk for an antigen test. While we wait for the results, I will give you a prescription to buy acetaminophen at the pharmacy.)

ACTOR 2
¿Cómo debo tomarlo?
(How should I take it?)

ACTOR 1
Cada ocho horas. Preferiblemente con el estómago lleno. 
(Every 8 hours. Preferably on a full stomach.)

Again, there are many more symptoms and instructions that can be involved in this. First, let’s add a couple of particular situations you should definitely warn your doctor about if it applies to you. Things like:

  • Estoy embarazada. (I am pregnant.)
  • Soy diabética. (I am diabetic.)
  • Soy alérgica a: la penicilina, las nueces, los mariscos. (I am allergic to: penicillin, nuts, seafood.)

Also, your doctor could give you certain instructions to check you up. Among them, could be:

  • Túmbese boca arriba o boca abajo. (Lie on your back or stomach.)
  • Respire profundo. (Take a deep breath.)
  • Desvístase y póngase la bata. (Undress and put on the gown.)
  • Tosa. (Cough.)
  • Siga mi dedo. (Follow my finger.)
  • Abra la boca. (Open your mouth.)

Now, I’ll leave a few questions for you to test what you learned today. Also, leave a nauseated emoji in the comments if you’ve ever been sick in a foreign country! This way, I’ll also know that you have stuck with me to the end. 

Before I test you on today’s topic, though, I hope this was useful, and I really hope you don’t need it, but I’m glad we did this in case you ever do. If you are already feeling sick in a foreign country and that’s why you're here, my heart goes out to you. Stay strong and positive and all will be over soon!

Time for that quiz! What phrase would you use to say something hurts in Spanish?

  •  Me arde
  • Me duele

What’s the expression for fasting they’ll use to instruct you?

  • No puede comer
  • Tiene que estar en ayunas

How do you say you’ve been feeling general discomfort in Spanish?

  • Me siento mal
  • Tengo malestar general

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