At the doctor
Language Resources

Vocabulary: At the Doctor

We hope it never happens, but you may, at some point during your trip to Spain, need to go to the doctor. What vocabulary do you need when going to see a doctor? Take a look.

Auscultar: Put the ear to the abdomen or chest cavity to listen to the organs found there. Some doctors may talk about an “exploración” however, that term is more or less incorrect.

Camilla: the thin, portable bed that we sit on while the doctor examines us.

Chequeo: The doctor may tell us we should get one of these. It’s not very mysterious since it sounds similar to the translation in English. A “chequeo” is a general medical examination used to check your general health.

Cita Previa: Although the word “cita” is used a lot in Spain to refer to a romantic date, in this case we are talking about going to a doctor’s office or calling in order to ask for a time and day to see the doctor. Remember that at most clinics in Spain, it is not possible to walk in and see a doctor, you must always make an appointment.

Consultorio: Although it may sound like the office of a fortune teller, it is actually a place where the doctor receives his patients and answers their questions. It’s strange, but in the past, when doctors made house calls to see their rich patients, this word was associated exclusively with the place where the doctor received the least well-to-do patients.

Fonendoscopio: Nobody can imagine a doctor without this tool. It is that tube with “earphones" that the doctor uses to auscultate (listen to) his patients. Many people also call it a “estetoscopio” even if this word refers to any tool that is used to listen to the sounds in the patient’s chest cavity.

Genérico: It is very likely that if you ask your Spanish doctor if we have the same medicines in Spain that you have in your country, he or she will recommend something called a “genérico.” The genérico is the active ingredient, the part that we need, rather than the medicine’s brand name. A couple of examples include: paracetamol, ibuprofen…

Receta: This is the famous piece of paper signed by the doctor that tells the pharmacist which medicines we need.

Sala de espera: This is the place where we wait our turn to see the doctor and where five minutes can seem like hours.

Síntomas: These are the physical signs of our sicknesses. For example, a sore throat, fever and fatigue are síntomas of a cold.

Volante: This word can be used in the same way as “receta” but it usually refers to the piece of paper that has our name and an appointment on it, and which is signed by our general practitioner if he or she wants to send us to a specialist.

This is the basic vocabulary that you may need for your visit to the doctor. Of course, as we’ve said, we hope you’ll never have to use it, and we wish you good health; but it’s never a bad thing to be prepared.

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