Vetspacito: Overcoming language barriers in veterinary care
A teenage girl brings her cute 8-week-old Jack Russell terrier puppy to a veterinarian. Beneath the puppy’s coat of wiry white hair, small black specks can be seen moving around. This dog has a severe flea infestation.
The veterinarian gives the puppy his first round of shots and emphatically explains the current infestation and the importance of flea medication.
The girl nods and explains the situation to her parents.
She acts as the translator because, while she is bilingual, her parents only speak Spanish. The burden of being the medical decisionmaker—a responsibility many adults struggle with—has essentially been placed on her young shoulders. Did the veterinarian's explanation work?
It’s hard to tell.
The girl does not bring the puppy back for his booster shot.
They are never seen at the practice again.
Unfortunately, stories like this are far from rare: Pets are not getting the best care possible due to language or cultural barriers.
The veterinary clinic can be stressful enough without adding a language barrier into the mix. The United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, but approximately fewer than 10% of veterinary professionals speak Spanish.
“It seems unimaginable to have the stress of a sick pet compounded with the confusion of not being able to understand what is being said at the veterinary clinic. However, this reality is unfortunately very common, especially in states such as California, Texas, Florida, and New York, where Spanish is widely spoken,” said Tyler Primavera, DVM.
Primavera is the co-founder of Vetspacito, which features educational videos, brochures, and cultural competency seminars to aid in communication between veterinarians and Spanish-speaking clients.
After earning his bachelor's degree in Hawaii and his Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Oregon State University, Primavera recognized the need for better communication with Spanish-speaking clients to provide quality care for their pets.
Vetspacito co-founder Esmeralda Cano, DVM, a bilingual Latina, is a first-generation college graduate who completed her undergraduate studies at UC Davis and earned her Doctor of Veterinary Medicine at Ross University. She is passionate about overcoming language barriers and promoting diversity and inclusion within veterinary medicine.
“By providing resources and education with easy-to-use technology, we hope Vetspacito helps usher in a new era of inclusive and accessible veterinary medicine, ensuring that all pets receive the quality care they deserve,” said Cano.
The Vetspacito platform includes Spanish and corresponding English videos that cover common topics such as spaying/neutering, dental disease, preventive care, senior care, dermatitis, and emergency issues such as trauma, seizures, and saddle thrombus. It is open to veterinary practices and teams for a subscription fee.
The videos might be used in the exam room before or after seeing the veterinarian, or they could also be shown in the lobby or reception area for general information. (View sample videos on the Vetspacito FAQ page, where a 30-day free trial code is also available.)
For founders Primavera and Cano, videos and brochures are just the beginning.
Ultimately, the real goal of Vetspacito is not to teach Spanish, but rather to elevate veterinary medicine to a new realm of cultural awareness and pet care.
“The Vetspacito movement was started because of a small thing: a puppy with fleas. But, as veterinary professionals we know that little things can make a big difference,” said Primavera.
Vetspacito may be just starting out, but they have big plans on bettering the field of veterinary medicine by providing better pet care, especially for the underserved Spanish-speaking populations.
“We believe every pet deserves the best care possible,” Primavera added.
Photos courtesy of Vetspacito
Disclaimer: The views expressed, and topics discussed, in any NEWStat column or article are intended to inform, educate, or entertain, and do not represent an official position by the American Animal Hospital Association (AAHA) or its Board of Directors.