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The Latino community has disproportionately felt the burden of COVID-19.
COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations, and deaths have been higher for Latinos than other groups.
“The pandemic has disproportionately hit Latinos throughout the country, who are already at a disadvantage as they are likely to work in front-line jobs and have the highest uninsured rates,” writes Cynthia Silva, according to NBC News.
As more Latinos have been hospitalized, healthcare providers have noticed the need for Latino nurses who can provide culturally competent, bilingual services.
Unfortunately, less than 6% of nurses are Latino, mostly due to systemic barriers that prevent Latino students from pursuing a career in nursing.
Let’s explore the importance of culturally competent healthcare and how to bring more Latinos into nursing.
Why Do We Need More Latino Nurses?
Nurses have always played a vital role in healthcare facilities.
But during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, nurses had to work around the clock to assist with the influx of COVID-19 patients.
“As an ICU nurse, I’ve seen the sickest of the sick. And unfortunately, at the peak of the pandemic, it was just a huge number of Latinos in the ICU, and the pandemic has just affected them disproportionately,” said Helen Cordova, an ICU nurse who was the first person to receive a COVID-19 vaccine in California.
With more Latinos in hospitals, its critical that we have healthcare workers who can provide comprehensive care to Latinos, especially non-English speakers.
Liz Guevara, a nurse care manager at La Clinica del Pueblo, found that knowing Spanish and being Latina were helpful to serve Latinos in the area, but that being bilingual doesn’t necessarily mean she would earn someone’s trust.
“We need to be culturally competent. Just because a provider may speak Spanish doesn’t mean the patient will be comfortable to talk about their pain,” Guevara said, according to NBC News. “Patients are more reluctant to speak to a provider if they can’t fully express themselves.”
Latino nurses may also be more aware of health disparities and how to address them.
“We also bring with us that lens of how do we decrease health disparities so that way we can improve care and make sure that patients are not being treated differently because of their ethnicity or race,” said Adrianna Nava, president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, according to NBC News
Having healthcare professionals who understand one’s customs, cultures, and trauma can make a huge difference for a patient.
“Part of the barrier is that we don’t have enough providers to work with certain communities, like in the Latinx community. We don’t have enough bilingual and culturally competent providers to work with that community,” said Cheryl Aguilar, clinical social worker and founding director at the Hope Center for Wellness.
That’s why it’s vital to recruit more Latinos into nursing and all of healthcare.
How Do We Get More Latino Nurses?
Having more Latino nurses is vital for providing the best care to Latino patients.
That means eliminating the barriers that are preventing Latinos from going into nursing.
“Education is the first barrier, and it goes beyond a high school diploma. High schools with predominantly Latino student bodies are in underserved communities… and students aren’t getting the science courses they need to enter nursing,” Silva writes, according to NBC News.
The change needs to come from high schools and colleges in how they engage with young Latino students.
“High school counselors play a large role in encouraging students to consider nursing before they enter college… Colleges can also take an active role in reaching out to high schools that have Latino students, fostering relationships with them and even having alumni help,” Silva writes, according to NBC News.
Antonia Villarruel, dean of nursing at the University of Pennsylvania, hopes that Latino students consider community colleges and schools with strong financial aid support if the cost of college is a concern.
Some scholarships also exist to support Latinas interested in nursing.
“To address the shortage of Latinas specifically, Hispanic Star and NurseHeroes.org collaborated to create a scholarship program, Hispanic Star Nurse Heroes, to create opportunities in the health care industry. The fund includes a $150,000 donation that will give 20 future nurses $7,500 apiece to cover tuition. The goal will be to raise $7.5 million for 1,000 Latinas, and, because 92 percent of nurses are women, the fund expects applicants to be women but makes it clear that the program is open to all Latinos,” Silva writes, according to NBC News.
Having more Latino nurses will help fight disparities that Latino patients experience in hospitals.
Not only do systemic racism and discrimination make it harder for Latinos to get the proper healthcare treatment, but also for housing, transportation, education, employment, healthy food, and safe treatment by police, all of which are worsened by the COVID-19 pandemic.
You can make a difference by downloading and using the Salud America! “Get Your City to Declare Racism a Public Health Crisis Action Pack” to fight racism in your community.
The Action Pack will help you gain feedback from local social justice groups and advocates of color. It will also help you start a conversation with city leaders for a resolution to declare racism a public health issue along with a commitment to take action to change policies and practices. It will also help build local support.