This week we were introduced to clinical experience in Costa Rica. Our time has been split between a public hospital and a clinic affiliated with Universidad de Iberoamerica (UNIBE) (the school organizing and overseeing our stay). It seems like everyone is having a great experience observing testing, assessments, and individual and group therapy settings. While our experience has only just begun, one particular difference between administered services here and in the United States has been especially striking. While virtually no service is provided in the US without previously obtaining informed consent and ensuring confidentiality, the services we have observed in Costa Rica have operated differently. For instance, many of the therapy sessions that we have observed over the course of the week have been in rooms with open doors or windows, and with various clinicians and students coming and going throughout the conversation. While this setting would be out of the ordinary in the United States, it seems to be standard practice in Costa Rica. While many reasons for this have likely yet to be made clear to us, some explanations include a different perception of health services due to the socialized nature of their healthcare system, as well as the lack of space and ventilation in meeting rooms, and long waiting list that comes with acquiring such services.
Perhaps the most obvious difference that we have experienced so far has been that of the use of the Spanish language. The remainder of this blog will offer individual perspectives on applying our language skills:
I have not taken a Spanish class for a number of years and have not had very many opportunities to practice what skills I had obtained since. As a result, my Spanish-speaking abilities were limited upon arriving in San Jose one week ago. However, I have found them to be quickly improving. Costa Ricans seem to speak very clear, well-articulated Spanish that is easy to interpret. Additionally, the host family that I am staying with, as well as the staff at UNIBE have been very patient and accommodating. They are encouraging the use of Spanish and offering many opportunities for us to use it. Every activity and presentation is offered in either English or Spanish, making it easy to understand. Additionally, the language courses that we are taking are proving to be very useful and fun! We have been split up into two groups according to competency levels, which allows us to learn and practice at individualized rates.
My Spanish skills leave much room for improvement and I have already realized the benefits of being immersed in the language. My host family has created an ideal learning environment as they patient and understanding of my Spanish skills. The way in which my language will improve is by speaking and making mistakes and my family environment is one where I am comfortable doing so. Although, there is a Tico (a Costa Rican) medical student who lives with my host family, who speaks limited English and at times it feels as if we are playing a perpetual game of charades. In this short week, I know my skill have improved and I look forward to gaining more skills over the following weeks.