Center for Advanced Studies Abroad

Spanish for Medical Purposes

Program available in:

Spanish for Medical Purposes

Offered in partnership with Universidad Miguel Hernández Medical School at the Hospital San Juan in Alicante, Spain.

Goals and Objectives: The purpose of this course is to familiarize students at an intermediate level of Spanish or above with specific vocabulary and structures related to Spanish as used by health care professionals. The course will focus on developing communication skills, both for direct interaction with individuals in health care settings and for situations in which interpreting or language and cultural mediation services are needed. Language development within a Spanish for Specific Purposes framework will be combined with lessons in inter-cultural communication and awareness, language policy, and specific information about the Spanish health care delivery system.


Course Material:

Language development materials will be drawn from specialized texts chosen by the instructor. Materials related to culture and policy will be designed specifically for this course by the professor, reflecting current events and issues, and will be drawn from newspaper and journal articles and official documents.


Students will be expected to attend class and participate regularly. There will be regular classwork and a final exam. Students will also be expected to attend certain community-based activities to gain first hand knowledge of issues related to health care. The final grade will be based on class attendance, participation, attendance at co-curricular events, and the final exam.


The following topics will be covered in class:

  • Visiting the doctor: How to take a health history in Spanish; clinical intake procedures; vocabulary; cultural considerations; recording information in a concise, accurate and useful written format
  • Human anatomy: Major organs and systems and their functions; common descriptors
  • Common ailments and major diseases: Names, symptoms, and treatments
  • Emergencies: How to deal with emergency situations in Spanish
  • Food and Nutrition: Cultural beliefs regarding diet and food preparation
  • Lifestyle issues: Physical fitness, personal hygiene, behaviours, community-based health concerns
  • In the hospital: Diagnostic tests, surgery, and pre- and post-operative care
  • Culture-bound practices and considerations
  • Health care delivery: Spanish versus U.S. systems
  • Healthcare interpreters: Ethics, qualifications, and duties and responsibilities


Class sessions will combine language development exercises with emphasis on production, comprehension, reading and writing. Grammatical concepts will be reviewed as issues arise in the lessons. Vocabulary building will be emphasized. Basic community interpreting skills will be developed through role-plays and simulations. Guest speakers and community visits will complement the coursework being done and constitute an integral part of the learning experience.

Guest speakers and scheduled visits:

  • 2-hour presentation by a physician trained in Spain and practicing in the United States. Topic: Language interaction with foreign patients: What a doctor really needs to know in an intake interview
  • 2-hour presentation by a trained nutritionist. Topic: Differing values and approaches to nutrition and good eating habits: A comparative look at Spain and the United States.
  • 2-hour tour of hospital and presentation by director of hospital interpreting services.
  • 3-hour visit to the Anatomy/Cadaver lab at the Miguel Hernández University School of Medicine.
  • 3-hour visit to an Alternative Wellness Center with homeopathic, naturalist, and alternative approaches to health care.
  • 2-hour session in the Surgical skills lab. Practice suturing, carrying out physical exams on lab models, discussing basic surgical techniques.

Reference materials, exercise sources and handouts:

  • Patricia Houston and Patricia Rush, Spanish for Health Care (part of the Spanish at Work series). Prentice Hall.
  • Ana Jarvis and Raquel Lebredo, Spanish for Medical Personnel, 6th edition. Houghton Mifflin Company.
  • Holly Mikkleson, The Interpreter’s Rx. Acebo Publishing.
  • Español para el profesional médico. Libro propio.
  • International Medical Interpreters’ Association.

Sample Articles (reading and writing exercises in class):

  • El 50% de personas con trastorno de hiperactividad es causante de accidentes
  • Distribuyen nuevo suplemento nutricional a centros de salud
  • El hospital extrajo células del cordón umbilical en 25 partos el año pasado
  • La risa mejora el éxito de la fertilización in vitro
  • Los madrileños sin estudios más propensos a engordar
  • Madrid registra un máximo histórico en el número de donantes de órganos

Students may complete this program without requiring a student visa.


Term: Winter 2015-2016

Dates: December 27, 2015 to January 15, 2016

Deadline: October 30, 2015

Credits: 4–6

Accreditation: Universidad Miguel Hernández


Term: Summer 2016

Dates: TBD, 2016

Deadline: April 1, 2015

Credits: 4–6

Accreditation: Universidad Miguel Hernández

Click the season above to see dates and credit information.

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