Why We Need More Latino Nurses

Main-610x265Nursing is the fastest-growing occupation in the U.S. and employment of registered nurses is projected to grow steadily.[1] With options ranging from working in a physician’s office, a hospital or in home health services, and flexible schedules, nursing can fit anyone’s busy lifestyle. Nursing school grads also enjoy good starting salaries. I can think of very few careers that are as fulfilling as a career in healthcare, and among them nursing has one of highest satisfaction rates.

How Latino Nurses Are Making A Difference

Latinos account for 17% of the U.S. population, and by 2060 we will account for more than one quarter of the total, yet only 2% of nurses are Hispanic.[3] For me, this is something very personal, and I do not need to see the numbers to be aware of the importance of having more Latino nurses. I often have to accompany my mother-in-law to doctor’s appointments and translate as the nurses take her blood pressure or ask her questions about her health. Sometimes she will even drive to the next town if she finds a clinic or doctor’s office with Latino nurses and physicians. I had the opportunity to speak to various nurses and other healthcare professionals and they all agree that understanding the culture and specific needs of Latino patients are paramount for successful recovery from trauma or illness.

Lupi Nichols, an RN working at a hospital in Miami, lives this every day. “Many patients are relieved and excited when they realize I speak Spanish. Because we are in Miami, patients expect more people in the hospital to speak Spanish and they get very frustrated when they learn that I am the only Spanish-speaking nurse specialized in Lactation Consulting in the hospital,” says Nichols.

But it’s not only about language; culture plays a very important role in healthcare. When it comes to interacting with healthcare providers, Latinos value and expect respect, warm personal interactions and understanding of the importance of family members taking part in their healthcare decisions. “Other nurses often come to me and ask me to deal with challenging patients, but most of the time it’s not that the patient is difficult; it’s just that there are cultural differences. As a Latina, I understand how our family’s support plays an important role when we have health issues, so when a new mother’s room is filled with cousins, grandparents and uncles I am sensitive to those needs, and when I have to ask them to be quiet or leave I do it from a place of understanding and affection and they are always happy to comply,” says Nichols.

Lisa Rodriguez is an RN at the Department of Neurology at a Miami hospital; she started out as a medical assistant and has been a nurse for 17 years. “If you are passionate about helping people, nursing is a very rewarding career, and now is a great time to become a nurse. There is always going to be work as a nurse,” she says. Doctors call Rodriguez so she can help explain treatment and diagnoses to Latino families. “It’s not just about translating; I help families understand the rationale behind the treatment and it feels good to know that I am helping them feel better about what is going on and about the choices they have for treatment.”

Having more Latino healthcare professionals who can provide culturally relevant and sensitive care can make a huge difference. Latinos are at particular risk for diabetes, tuberculosis, hypertension and other health-related problems, and many believe that the key to closing the gap and reducing those healthcare disparities lies in having a more diverse workforce. There is an immediate and urgent need for more Latino healthcare professionals, and there are a number of groups, organizations and employers that are looking to attract and recruit Latino nurses.

Nichols often encourages Latino nursing aides to study nursing, but she always gets the same answer: “They say that they would love to study nursing but they don’t have the time; they have kids at home and need a flexible schedule and an affordable option,” she says. “Many people do not realize that they can study nursing online.”

Be the Face of Change: Become a Role Model

I know from experience that there is nothing that feels better than helping others. Finding a career that you are passionate about and that gives you the tools to really make an impact, not only in a person’s life and the lives of their family members, but also improves the well-being of the Latino community in general, is truly priceless. What started out as an article about the importance and need for more Latino healthcare providers has now become more personal. As a Latina, I know it takes just one interaction with a nurse who understands, cares and “gets” my culture to change the way I look at healthcare in the United States and how proactive I am about taking care of my health and that of my family.

There are very few Latino role models in healthcare leadership positions, and the Latino community as a whole is looking to the new generation to make a change and become those role models. I hope that I can inspire Latinos to take a step toward making a career decision that will not only be fulfilling for them, but that will also positively impact the Latino community.

I’m compensated by University of Phoenix for this blog. As always, all thoughts and opinions are my own.



[1] http://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/registered-nurses.htm

[2] https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/library/publications/2015/demo/p25-1143.pdf

[3] http://www.public.iastate.edu/~monica66/wbtu/teachingunit/statistics.html

Paula Bendfeldt-Diaz

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16 thoughts on “Why We Need More Latino Nurses”

  1. There should definitely be more bi lingual nurses in hospitals and doctors offices and even more in clinics where tests are taken. And it is not only Hispanic nurses that are needed–there are a lot of other ethnicities out there that could use translation help!

  2. Excellent post. I shared on LinkedIn and twitter.

    I just went through 2 years of serious health care and then home hospice with my mother and then my father.

    We are not Latino, but my Mom was full blooded Italian-American and needed very similar compassion from the health care team. (Did not always get it, of course).

    I agree so much with your post and am happy to share.

  3. I love this post and I couldn’t agree more. It is important to make sure that all patients have accurate information and a complete understanding of their treatment. Cultural sensitivity is crucial, we live in a very diverse country and it’s a beautiful thing.

  4. Es sumamente importante contar con enfermeras de vocación que sean bilingües porque cuando las personas están enfermas lo que más necesitan es sentirse protegidas y poder expresar lo que sienten.

  5. Soy Enfermera graduada y colegiada en mi país, la enfermería es una hermosa profesión que me enseño a ser más disciplinada, humana y relacionarme mejor con las personas, estudie en una universidad católica y tenemos el lema “Cuidar al enfermo como lo hace una madre con su único hijo enfermo”, por todo eso la Enfermería me ha traído muchas satisfacciones personales y profesionales pero no me animo a retomar aquí en US, porque así como es una hermosa carrera y el contacto con las personas es lo que más me gusta también es muy sacrificada y cuando tuve a mi Pequeña me dí cuenta que las guardias nocturnas y el horario rotativo no era parte de lo que quería y empece a trabajar en colegios y otras instituciones durante el día, ahora estoy dedicada a mi Pequeña hija y también es una de las satisfacciones más grandes poder ver cada momento de su crecimiento y desarrollo, definitivamente en el mundo hacen falta muchas enfermeras pero con verdadera vocación de servicio, muchas gracias por la información, la comparto, saludos y

    ¡FELIZ DÍA!ॐ

  6. En temas de salud, prefiero alguien con el que pueda hablar y expresarme mejor, por lo que si hablan español es mucho más sencillo. Lo mismo ocurre con mi mamá, quién no habla inglés.


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