March 23, 2007

Hispanic nurses break cultural barriers in health care

By Pablo Jaime Sáinz

Although many times they’re taken for granted, nurses might as well be the backbone of a health care facility.

And with the myriad of opportunities that exist for nurses, especially for bilingual nurses, it has become one of the hottest professions around.

There’s a local organization that serves as a bridge between nurses and the Latino community.

It is the San Diego Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses, a non-profit organization that, among other goals, tries “to assess, plan, strategize, implement and evaluate outcomes to ensure culturally competent, safe and quality health care services to the Hispanic communities.”

The San Diego Chapter is actively involved in the community, with monthly meetings, job fairs, conferences, and scholarships for nursing students.

La Prensa San Diego interviewed the San Diego Chapter President Maria Robles to learn more about the important role the National Association of Hispanic Nurses plays in the advocacy of health care services for Latinos.

She also talked about the importance of encouraging Latinos and Latinas to join the nursing profession.

Question: Why is it important to have Latinos and Latinas in the nursing profession?

Robles: It is important to have Latinos/Latinas in the nursing profession because patients deserve to have their cultural needs addressed and met while they are receiving medical care. It is also important to have nurses who are bilingual and bicultural because if the language or cultural barriers are not overcome it could negatively impact the patient’s health outcomes.

Question: How does the San Diego Chapter of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses help the community?

Robles: SDNAHN’s mission is to address the health and educational needs of our Hispanic community. We do this by participating in health fairs to provide blood pressure screenings and provide much needed health information in the form of brochures and one on one explanations. We also provide nursing profession presentations during career fairs at our local high schools and elementary schools. More importantly, SDNAHN provides scholarships to new nursing students as well as nurses who are furthering their education.

Question: How would you describe a typical Latino nurse?

Robles: It would be difficult for me to describe a “typical Latino nurse” as nurses are very diverse; nurses can work in different fields of health care and have various levels of education. I could, however, say that Latino nurses have a strong understanding about their culture which enhances the communication with patients and their families.

Question: What does it mean to be a nurse? Why is it a good profession?

Robles: To me being a nurse means to be ready for change, to be resourceful, and to be compassionate and caring. Nursing is a good profession because nurses are always in demand and because the work and pay level opportunities are endless.

Question: I see you offer and promote several scholarships for nursing students. Why is it important to encourage Latinos to enter the profession?

Robles: It is important for SDNAHN to promote the nursing profession because we serve a high population of Spanish speaking patients and the profession needs more representation. It is important for SDNAHN that Latino/Latina nurses further their education so that we have representation in every area of the health care fields including nursing research.

Question: Please give details about the chapter; number of members, members’ profile, etc.

Robles: To date we have 57 members. Our members can be nursing students, nurses and community members who are interested in serving the Latino community. Our membership includes Registered Nurses, Nurse Practitioners, and Nurse Educators.

Question: Who should join the chapter?

Robles: Latino/Latina nurses who are interested in serving the Hispanic communities, nursing students who are interested in serving the community and need a mentor while they are in nursing school and after they graduate.

Question: Anything you’d like to add?

Robles: Yes, I would like to add that SDNAHN is a great organization to join. We value our members and everything they contribute to the organization. We hold a yearly Scholarship Fundraiser Dinner in November and we appreciate all the support we obtain from all our local health care agencies as well as businesses. Our Scholarship Dinner this year will be on November 3rd at the Sheraton Hotel in Mission Valley.

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