Speaking their language

Speaking their language

Imagine that you are scheduled for surgery. You are anxious; you are nervous. A million questions enter your head. Will the surgery go well? Will you handle the anesthesia without any side-effects? On top of that, imagine that you don’t speak the same language as your care team. For many patients, this is a reality. Mai See Yang, certified registered nurse anesthetist at the Aurora Medical Center – Sheboygan, experienced this in her own life and decided to do something about it.  

Yang originally did not even consider health care as a career. She had a bachelor’s degree in computer science and was content in that field. It was only family circumstances that brought her to health care. Yang’s parents immigrated to the United States later in life, and it was during this time that they became sick and were in the hospital frequently. This became difficult; her parents did not speak English and there were no interpreters or interpreter services at the time, so Yang was called on to translate for her parents. The health care industry appealed to her, and she decided that she wanted to go back to school for nursing.

During nursing school, Yang found out about the role of a nurse anesthetist and found it fascinating that there is medication that can put you to sleep and help wake you up. So, she went back to school and coincidentally was among the first class of nurses to graduate from the Marquette University Doctor of Nursing Practice Nurse Anesthesia program.

“I saw the language barrier my parents had and I wanted to bridge that for others in my community,” says Yang. “There are still a lot of individuals in the Hmong community that can’t speak English, and this can be a barrier to getting proper health care.”

When it comes to a medical field that is complex such as anesthesia, you really need to communicate with patients in a way that they can understand. She makes a point of spending time with patients and answering their questions. “People are going in for surgery. They don’t always know what you mean when you say that they have hypertension or even diabetes,” says Yang.

Regardless of the challenges and adversity, Yang appreciates that being a nurse anesthetist allows her to be a patient advocate. She makes sure patients remain safe and has no shortage of motivation in her job.  

“It’s always about the patients,” concludes Yang. “Every day is something new. I just strive to help people and give them a better outlook during their health care journey.” 

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About the Author

Colin Schaller
Colin Schaller

Colin graduated from Marquette University with a degree in communications and has more than 10 years of experience in small marketing firms to Fortune 500 companies. Colin is married to his wonderful wife, Brooke, and they have two children. Outside of work, Colin enjoys golf, going to the gym, watching movies (he is a Star Wars nerd), tinkering with his home theater and spending time with family and friends.