Top 3 mistakes at Spanish hospitals


I did not know much about the Spanish health system before I created Torrevieja Translation back in 2010, and much less about how Spanish hospitals worked.

After making some calculations the other day I ended up with the following numbers:

With over 3000 appointments with clients as their interpreter to either hospitals or GPs visits”.

I think those numbers give me an acceptable level of credibility to what I’m going to say next 😉



1. Not bringing an interpreter (if you don’t speak Spanish)

Right, you are possibly thinking: “David is promoting his services” or “he wants us to call him to be our interpreter at the hospital”.

Many of the readers of my blog are not located in my area. In fact, many people are reading this from other countries. So it is for informational purposes. I’m writing this article about Spanish hospitals, overall.

My recommendation is to bring an interpreter at least for the first visit.

Does the doctor speak English? Great. Next time you won’t need an interpreter, as long as it’s the same doctor, since that doctor could be on call, holiday or covering emergencies.

In touristic areas doctors may speak more English, but they are not obligated to. So don’t take it personal if they ask you to bring an interpreter.


(Notes won’t help you much if you don’t bring an interpreter)

Don’t forget: the level of English language in Spain is very poor.

Just go outside the touristic areas and you will find the genuine Spain, the real number of people speaking English (very little).

Other languages than English? I wouldn’t take the chance, especially if it is a serious health problem.

2. Making inappropriate comments

When you are with a doctor, and very importantly if you are using an interpreter, don’t make inappropriate comments.

Otherwise, your interpreter will have a bad time translating the message. A conflict could then arise.

Try to be nice and polite, even though you encounter a grumpy doctor. Good manners usually wins over bad.

Certain types of jokes can be accepted if you have the knack of doing it in a funny way with the right type of doctor. But be careful with the sense of humour, as it is not understood everywhere.


(Let’s be nice with doctors, they could save our lives one day)

Here’s a list of inappropriate comments that I have witnessed and that won’t help you whatsoever at Spanish hospitals:

“Complaining to doctors about Spain because they don’t prescribe your tablets anymore due to the financial crisis”. This is not the doctor’s fault.

“Telling doctors how disappointed you are with the Spanish health system because things are not like in your country”. I can expect any reaction here.

“Telling doctors in an arrogant way that they should speak English, since you are English-speaking”. This is a good one. The official language in Spain is still Spanish; just a friendly reminder.

“Laughing when they speak because you are disappointed with their diagnosis of your problem”. If it is not a time to joke, in Spain it can mean you are mocking people. If you don’t agree with the doctors’ decisions, don’t laugh at them. There are other ways to get your point across.

3. Getting “infoxicated” on the Internet

Doctors don’t like patients doing their job. That’s why they are doctors and patients are patients.

I love reading stuff on the Internet, especially articles related to business and technology. However, I wouldn’t argue with a business or technology expert about something I read on the Internet; hence I have lots of years of experience in technology (and some in business).

Too much information will “infoxicate” you (intoxicated by information). This means, in my own words, that if you read a lot of information on the Internet from many different sources, it may cause a psychological impact to a certain degree (confusion, fear, anguish, worries, etc).


(“Infoxication” will not make you any happier. Instead…)

Also, does that information come from professionals? Is it accurate? Where is it published?

Doctors in Spain don’t like to hear people contradicting them because of something they read on the Internet.

In short, doctors should be the only figure doing a diagnosis, prescribing treatments and providing a prognosis; not patients.

It makes sense, doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t like my clients doing my job, as they’ve called me because they don’t speak Spanish and don’t know how to do something in particular. You know what I mean? 😉


Image Credit: Andy S., Kevin O., Nicholas N., Threthny


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