Posted by Lisa Ryujin, MD (a third year Ob/Gyn resident from Kaiser Permanente Oakland serving a global…
Posted by Lisa Ryujin, MD (a third year Ob/Gyn resident from Kaiser Permanente Oakland serving a global health elective at Benh Vien Hung Vuong Maternity hospital in Vietnam).
The doctors and staff here have been extremely nice. Every day, we walk down to the can ti (cafeteria) and have lunch together. It is a rush of confusion, patients trying to get their meals, pushing to the front of the counter. The doctors are able to order and sit down, they are served and pay after they have finished. However this requires the ability to speak in the Vietnamese language. You can’t just point to the things that you want, as I have been doing in the city.
On Saturday, I was on call and since labor and delivery was so busy, I ventured down to the can ti. How hard could it be? It was my first experience trying to brave the system alone. I walked in and tried to find a familiar face, anyone I could recognize. No one. I guess on the weekends, the staff rotates too. I tried to go up and buy a ticket and stand in line with the patients, but couldn’t read anything on the menu, so I couldn’t order. I tried to order, the way that I had seen Dr. Trang do it this past week, but was unsuccessful. I tried walking up to the counter and pointing to food, but there were so many people that the person behind the counter didn’t notice me. I was so tired from the morning of work, I couldn’t muster any more tricks, so I skipped lunch.
This story isn’t directly relevant in my practice of medicine. However, I learned a valuable lesson, now I bring a pack of trail mix in case labor and delivery is busy. What was amazing is the reflection of how hard it is to wake up in the morning and brave the day if you don’t speak the language. I really admire our patients back in Oakland, who come and see me in clinic or in labor and delivery, who don’t speak English but still brave the system. They try to negotiate their care through AT&T translators, and make it work.
This isn’t my first time in a country where I didn’t speak the language, this isn’t even my first time practicing medicine in a place where I don’t speak the language, but I have had more independence and less guidance during this trip than usual, and I think that autonomy has really forced me to appreciate the things that I don’t even appreciate on an every day basis while practicing in the US.