Monday, January 25, 2010

Lost in Laughter, not in Translation

Nurses have no formal training in hieroglyphics, but most of us learn how to decipher doctors' handwriting before graduation. Even after all these years, however, some doctors' notes still give me pause. They're a little trickier, perhaps, in a different culture, although our clinical officers write in English. That is the official language of Kenya.

I have been temporarily stymied here by sentences like, "The patient was stoned by rugs." (Try "rogues.") Speaking of rogues, I had visions of an Indian snake charmer run amok in East Africa after reading in two separate charts, "The patient was beaten by a snake." (Maybe "bitten"?) Most recently, I was startled to see an "NPO after midnight" order written as "Starve the patient after midnight."

Even oral communication has its moments, and that's always a two-way street. Today our medical officer asked me to consult in the Outpatient Department. Francis instructed the patient, who was lying face down on the examining table, to remove his trousers. "Boils?" I anticipated. "No," Francis replied without hesitation. "His balls are in front."

Fortunately, calligraphy, spelling and the nuances of vowels are not necessarily required to communicate effectively and give conscientious care at Maseno Mission Hospital. The ability to laugh at ourselves, though, is a prerequisite.


Nancy Rowe said...

thanks for the laugh!!!! Keep on smiling! You will be able to write a book someday with all this in your blog!

Dianne, Dee, Mom, Granny said...

Thanks for laughing with me, Nancy. I was a little reluctant to tell the final story, but it was just too priceless to leave out.