Art Engler, PhD, RN on Medical Spanish


Arthur J. Engler, PhD, RN is an Associate Professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing. His academic areas of interest include psychiatric/mental health nursing in addition to neonatal tertiary care and pediatric primary care. Professor Engler is a member of NAHN.

Canopy had the pleasure of speaking with Professor Engler, who is passionate about providing nursing students with the skills to communicate with Spanish-speaking patients. His words from our conversation are condensed below.

Tell us a bit about yourself, your career, and impetus for teaching medical Spanish.

I’m a professor at the University of Connecticut School of Nursing where I’ve been for 16 years. I am a nurse and have worked for years in neonatal and pediatric nursing. I am also a Spanish-speaker and have been for almost all of my life. I started studying Spanish in after-school classes. Growing up, I lived for a period of time in Mexico and Colombia, so not only was I studying Spanish in an academic environment, but also speaking it in my daily life. I continued to take Spanish through high school and then I studied at the University of the Andes in Colombia. Later in my career, I worked on pediatric community health in a small village in Honduras for a short time. I eventually built up a little group of families who I would visit often; many of them were having various difficulties with their children whether a reaction, diarrhea, or weight gain. Honduras gets many mission trips. They’re primarily medical, which is necessary for surgical procedures and to treat certain conditions, but they are also in need of nursing care - the more extended care over a course of weeks and months - to help them maintain what physicians brought about. I visited those families in the village almost every day during my time there. It was good to be able to provide care for a sustained period in the language of the community.

What about your experience with Spanish-speaking patients in the U.S.?

Before I came to the University of Connecticut, I lived in Washington D.C. and worked at Children’s National Medical Center in the neonatal intensive care unit. When I was practicing, I was encountering Spanish-speaking patients (or parents of patients) virtually every day. Even if the child spoke English, many times the parent didn’t. Often what ended up happening – due to lack of resources – was that you had someone inappropriate – a pediatric patient for example – translating very specific terminology. When I worked at Children’s, I not only used my Spanish abilities in the neonatal ICU, but also in other various departments because there weren’t always official interpreters available, and coworkers would call me to interpret for various situations. Luckily, my schedule at the time was flexible enough to be available. Now at the University of Connecticut, I actually teach a Spanish for Healthcare Providers course. It was really the shortage of Spanish-speaking providers during my clinical experiences that prompted me to eventually teach my own course. In my experience, there were very few Spanish-speakers – at least amongst the professional staff – who were competent to use Spanish in a medical setting.

What has you experience been with Canopy Learn?

I heard about Canopy Learn through NAHN, a Canopy partner organization. I decided to take the course because I was curious given I teach medical Spanish, myself. I thought it would be a good review for me and it certainly was.

I really liked the format: having listening exercises included where you hear native speakers talking and a good variety of vocabulary and grammar review. I loved the telenovela! I actually looked forward to what was going to happen next – I was really caught up in the whole thing. I think it’s important that the featured tutor was not a native Spanish speaker, but an English speaker with a mastery of Spanish: she is a good role model for those individuals who have the desire to learn Spanish, but haven't yet gotten around to it. Learning languages – if you’re a beginner – is not very interesting. You have to memorize a lot: conjugations, vocabulary… It’s like learning the piano, I think. You just have to practice those scales and move on with it! But, I think the Canopy Learn program makes the process enjoyable enough that learning is natural.  Additionally, the information is immediately relevant, you can use it right away. I think Canopy Learn is a really positive course to take.


Take the trail version of Canopy's Medical Spanish Training Course here