When Kaitlin Griego came to St. Andrews University five years to begin working as an athletic trainer, she knew amid all of her training how to tape and assess injury, but it was another evolving task that recently gained attention at a symposium for athletic trainers: working with international student-athletes, specifically the SAU men’s soccer team.
In other words, as she says, “I had to learn so much more than I knew about patience, about describing body parts such as there are no words for toes in some Spanish speaking countries as well as insurance problems.”
For five years, Ms. Griego has been developing her thoughts and experiences and sharing them with the other four SAU athletic trainers, particularly about international student-athletes, and then decided to wrote a proposal to share her learning at the District 3 Mid-Atlantic Association Athletic Training Association. That annual symposium was held May 18-20 in Ocean City, MD.
In an hour-long presentation covering 25 pages of a power point titled “Working with International Students: How to Communicate and Build Affective Relationships,” she discussed multiple points of how she has learned to in a more caring and improved manner provide a quality of athletic training care that is often done without either her or the athlete speaking the same language. To the point: for the 2017- 2018 season, 49 student-athletes were playing soccer and of those, 38 were internationals. Sixteen were from Spain and Brazil, plus Venezuela and Bolivia.
All, she said, had a basic grasp of English but only a few were readily bilingual, and she doesn’t speak Spanish.
Attempting to treat injuries for her became a daily challenge. For instance, trying to describe head injuries lacked specific words or detailing other body parts, she would point and then try to understand their facial expressions. “I hit a wall sometimes trying to figure out what was wrong or what they were trying to explain.” Even with the help of teammates who could translate, Ms. Griego struggled.
Now, five years later, she is more routinely adapting to those first-year students and is much more confident in how she manages treatment. Her initial contact with them is to be welcoming and accepting, realizing they don’t understand and when injured, they want help but aren’t sure how to ask for or accept it. In fact, other than immediate trips to the emergency room, possible surgery for knees, etc., many of the internationals want to go home to their physicians and hospitals.
Her presentation covered developing trust, overcoming language barriers and cultural differences, considering that she counts 25 different countries and athletes in her time at St. Andrews.
Additionally, she has to be cognizant of not only treatments, but also visa issues, insurance and most obvious, no parents who will be here to assist when an injury happens.
Most of the athletes only played in clubs with minimal athletic trainer accessibility other than what is called “physio.” Thus, her relationship with the student is more dependent on having to be patient, have empathy and most importantly, she says, “to learn about their family and culture which they want to talk about.”
Even a trip to the physician can be complicated, trying to interpret what is being said, how treatments are to be accomplished and how insurance works. “I have become at times more of a care giver and then a better athletic trainer.
Her professional and academic portfolio includes Hofstra University with a B.S. in athletic training, an MBA from Webber International University in international business. She is a nationally certified athletic trainer, an NC state licensed athletic trainer, Basic Life Support Certified by the American Red Cross, Mental Health First Aid Certified, International Critical Incident Stress Foundation Trained Responder by the National Athletic Training Association ATS Care program.
Now that she has shared her work at SAU with a larger audience of athletic trainers from all sorts of settings other than universities, Ms. Griego is planning to more fully develop her presentation and apply for a national symposium next year.—30—