Colleges Working to Meet Rising Demand for Spanish Speaking Health Professionals
From: USA Today Date: Nov. 18, 2011 Author: Viviana Bonilla Lopez (USA Today) - A growing Hispanic population is rapidly increasing the need for bilingual healthcare providers and many universities have risen to the challenge of preparing students by offering courses in medical Spanish.According to the 2010 US Census, 16 percent of Americans are of Hispanic or Latino origin. By 2050, the Pew Hispanic Center projects that they will be 29 percent of the population."They're here, they're working and they need healthcare," said Lori Catanzaro, who created a medical Spanish course at Vanderbilt University. "Everyone needs healthcare."More than one-fourth of Hispanic adults in the United States lack a usual health care provider, and a similar proportion report obtaining no health care information from medical personnel in the past year, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.The goal of courses that teach students medical terminology in Spanish - as well as cultural proficiency - is to make sure the next generation of medical professionals can communicate effectively. "I think it's very difficult to be able to treat someone when you can't even understand what they're saying," said Chelsea Foong, a senior at Baylor University. Foong is currently enrolled in "Intermediate Spanish for Medical Professions," a course centered on teaching students how to communicate with Spanish speaking patients, medical vocabulary and the differences between Hispanic and American culture. Karol Hardin has been teaching the course in its current format since 2008 and uses techniques such as Spanish Simon Says, role play and a game where students are asked to place construction paper organs on a human body cardboard cutout. "It only begins to address the huge need for medical personnel who speaks Spanish," Hardin said of her course. "This is where we start."At Vanderbilt University, Catanzaro's teaching approach includes incorporating practical experience. As part of "Spanish for the Medical Profession," which Catanzaro created eight years ago, students are required to volunteer as interpreters in nearby hospitals and clinics for at least two hours a week. Senior Brandon Lyle, who is currently taking the course and plans to go to medical school, said working at a non-profit clinic helps him practice his language skills."I get to experience and put in use exactly what this class has taught me," he said.Catanzaro said this kind of practice is important because federal regulations require all health care providers receiving federal funds to provide meaningful access to individuals with limited English proficiency. A regulation mandated by an executive order signed by President Clinton in 2000. But Vanderbilt isn't the only university with a service requirement. The Catholic University of America has offers a 15-credit Spanish for Health Care Certificate since Jan. 2010. The certificate, which is offered to undergraduates, graduates and healthcare professionals, has sequences for both beginner and proficient Spanish speakers. Most courses require community service and students have the opportunity to study abroad. "It's more than just learning the language," said Jennifer Maxwell, the program's director.Hardin agreed, saying that in her class, cultural proficiency was more important than perfecting the language. "They may make mistakes in grammar but they really can't make mistakes when it comes to politeness," she said.Regardless of course structure, students are eager to take these classes. At the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, the medical Spanish course was part of an attempt to meet the demand for Spanish courses among Hispanic Studies majors. To increase course offerings, a minor in Spanish for the Professions, which includes the course in medical Spanish, was introduced. But instead of merely accommodating current students, the medical course has attracted a whole new group of students looking into health professions, said Darcy Lear, coordinator for the minor."Suddenly there's literally hundreds of students," Lear said.