Why We Need More Hispanic Nurses in Healthcare

June 17, 2020 4:33 am27 commentsViews: 30

Healthcare is the largest and arguably most important economic sector in the United States, encompassing more than 1 in 6 dollars of expenditures. Given longer lifespans and growing populations, the need for healthcare workers in general continues to rise with each passing year.

The nature of healthcare is complex, involving hundreds of unique considerations to ensure adequate care is rendered in every community throughout the nation. Among these concerns are affordability, access, and understanding on the part of healthcare workers. That familiarity of understanding among healthcare workers is particularly important for optimal outcomes, and nowhere can that be said to be truer than in Hispanic and Latino communities.

Given that nurses are often on the frontlines of healthcare treatment and that Hispanic and Latino communities are among the fastest-growing segments of the US population, a need for more nurses from our communities is greater than ever. With less than 5% of nurses being Hispanic, here are some vital reasons why we need more Hispanic nurses in healthcare.

Breaking Down Language Barriers

Something that many people take for granted is the ability to see a nurse or doctor without concern for basic communication and understanding. Yet for millions of Hispanic and Latino patients in the US, this is not a guarantee. Pew Research found in 2015 that approximately 30 percent of Hispanic and Latino US residents did not speak English proficiently, for a total of nearly 20 million.

While many Hispanic communities are cohesive and situated in urbanized areas, millions also live in remote, rural, or otherwise isolated areas where availability of healthcare professionals who speak Spanish (or other) native languages and dialects are non-existent. This makes the challenge of properly accessing healthcare and communicating with nurses very difficult.Ultimately, an increase in the number of Hispanic nurses certified via DNP programs and other credentials can help bridge this gap in healthcare access. While the percentage of Hispanic and Latino residents who do not speak English is in decline, millions still lack basic access to healthcare services in effect because of language barriers.

Understanding Crucial Cultural Differences

Healthcare professionals – whether Hispanic or not – must be aware of a variety of cultural differences that may be present in Latino communities and among patients. There are undoubtedly some factors that can lead to different healthcare outcomes, with Hispanic nurses naturally being more cognizant on average of these differences than non-Hispanic nurses. Some common examples may include:

  • Dietary differences. Hispanic and Latino dietary traditions are varied, meaning that it is impossible to standardize any one regimen for the entire US population. However, modern diets generally are more reliant upon carbohydrates than non-Hispanic diets, which increases the chances of obesity, diabetes, and other related conditions.
  • Natural differences in disease prevalence. A variety of health conditions naturally appear in Hispanic and Latino patients at higher levels than among US residents at-large. As one notable example, Puerto Ricans have asthma incident rates that are more than double that of non-Hispanic whites. Hispanic and Latino nurses trained via NNP or DNP programs may be more familiar with these risk factors among populations, knowing which questions to ask that are pertinent to these elevated incident rates of diseases.
  • Natural fear and skepticism of doctor visits. Multiple studies as of late have shown that Hispanics and Latinos are the least likely to visit a doctor of any racial or ethnic group. A variety of factors can contribute to this, including income levels, distrust of government services, and (as already mentioned) language barriers. However, Hispanic nurses can help bridge this gap through proactive community efforts and an understanding of common reasons for not visiting healthcare providers.

Lowering Income Inequality

With more than 1 in 6 US residents identifying as Hispanic or Latino, one might expect them to comprise more than 4 percent of the nursing workforce. Yet this massive gap remains – and while it has shrunk over the past decade, it is still unfathomably large. Yet another reason why more Hispanic and Latino nurses are needed is the fact that nursing offers a relatively straightforward path to a guaranteed income for workers.

The average RN graduate in the United States earns $56,000 per year through a two-year degree program. That’s more than roughly three-quarters of the US population earns in annual wages, and comparable to what roughly half of all four-year graduates earn within their first five years of work post-graduation. Those who pursue DNP programs to earn their doctorate in nursing earn an average of $125,000 per year, through qualified DNP programs offered by Baylor University and other comparable institutions.

According to the Current Population Survey from the U.S. Census Bureau:

“As of 2017, the average Hispanic woman in the United States made 87.4% of what their male counterparts earned, 75.8% of what white women made, and only 62.1% of what white, American males earned annually.”

The above-average earnings in nursing allow more Hispanic and Latino workers to earn sizable incomes via a career choice that is both needed and easily pursued. This allows for a structural unwinding of rampant racial and ethnic income inequality currently affecting millions of Hispanic and Latino families in the US.

Improving Patient Trust

Last but not least, evidence shows that patients generally prefer to discuss health matters with nurses and professionals who have similar upbringings, experiences, and understanding. Why a relative lack of trust exists among humans in this regard isn’t exactly understood, but many Hispanic patients are inherently more forthcoming to Hispanic nurses and doctors (as is the case with any other race or ethnicity of patients/nurses).

Given that effective communication is an essential ingredient in proper diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of many illnesses and diseases, Hispanic and Latino nurses merely being present can improve overall patient outcomes due to implicit trust alone.

Whether it’s improving patient outcomes by breaking down language barriers, navigating cultural concerns, improving patient trust, or simply lowering income inequality among Hispanics at-large, the need for more Hispanic nurses is formidable. Thankfully for those interested in this line of work, there are many current and future nursing positions emerging given the rapid growth of healthcare sectors across the United States.

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