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Sunday, August 7, 2022

Seeking to increase Spanish language representation in California's medical field

Pamela Cruz and Manuel Ortiz. Peninsula 360 Press

After the U.S. has been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic in recent months, where the Latino community has been the most affected, the need for Spanish-speaking medical personnel has increased and has highlighted the disparity that exists in the field.

According to Dr. David Hayes-Bautista, director of the Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture at the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) School of Medicine, as of 2015, there were 344.2 doctors for every 100,000 people in the state of California, of which only 62.1 spoke Spanish.

The also professor of medicine said that until 2015, the state of California had a deficit of 54,655 Latino doctors, because for a population of 15 million 184,905 people of Latino origin, there were only 6,953 doctors of that community, while for 14 million 814,590 white people of non-Hispanic origin, there were 60,106 doctors.

Thus, Spanish became the least represented language in the medical field in the state, as there is a greater number of practitioners who are fluent in other languages such as Farsi, Hindi, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Thai, and Filipino, said the specialist.

Likewise, Hayes-Bautista explained that from 1980 to 2010, in the entire American Union, for every 100,000 people there was an increase in English-speaking doctors, which went from 211 to 315, while Latino doctors went from 135 to 105.

In that sense, Van Ton Quinlivan, CEO of Futuro Health, announced the launch of the new campaign, "Your New Future", which consists of registering a thousand people whose primary language is Spanish and take a preparation course for the management of English.

The program in Southern California, she said, consists of a free, online English preparation course specific to the health care field, which seeks to build a diverse pipeline of students who want to pursue a career in the health care industry. 

During the virtual meeting: "The health care field offers career paths for LatinX job seekers - Free online English course, a first step", held by Ethnic Media Services, the expert said that in California alone there is a demand for thousands of new allied health workers with bilingual characteristics.

Van Ton Quinlivan said that beyond doctors and nurses, medical technicians and assistants are needed to help translate and be the contact with the millions of Latinos who live in the state and have no command of the English language, let alone the specific vocabulary of the area, so many patients can not take the treatment properly because they do not understand the indications.

He also noted that medical allies include a wide range of clinical, administrative and support roles, such as: medical assistants, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapists, radiology technicians, care coordinators, health IT specialists, licensed vocational nurses, among others. 

The course represents an opportunity to improve English language skills for those who wish to pursue a career in health care and provide care to patients, seniors, family members, or become a certified health care professional as a long-term professional career.

It should be noted that those students who decide to apply for the program must be over 18 years old, live in California, have an electronic device such as a smartphone, tablet or laptop with Internet access, and be willing to study three to six hours per week for the duration of the course, which can vary between three and five months.

Students who are proficient in Spanish may enroll in the English for Health Preparation course by visiting www.tunuevofuturo.com or by calling 1 (855) 463-8580. 

Our nation needs a health care workforce that reflects the communities it serves," Van Ton-Quinlivan said. 

For Rosalie Garcia Bernal, who has worked for years as a medical assistant, the opportunity of programs like this are of great importance, because throughout her career she has realized the shortcomings of the Latino community in the state in terms of health, for not being able to communicate with staff who speak their language.

Viviana Row, born in Colombia and married to an American citizen who is in the health care field, said she was happy to enter the program because the course has allowed her to be more fluent in English and she has learned more technical vocabulary, which will help her reach her goal of becoming a medical assistant.

I felt very comfortable because now I have knowledge that I didn't have before. I think the course is important for those of us who don't speak English well or feel a bit insecure. Futuro Health helps us to find the way to be able to develop in the health field. I am motivated and excited to start my career," she said. 

Dr. Margarita Loeza, director of medical information for the Venice Family Clinic, noted that there are many Latinos who seek to enter the medical field in the country, but do not find the right path to do so because of barriers such as language or economics.

He added that when a Latino patient goes to his or her doctor and realizes that the staff, the assistant, or the technicians speak the same language, a bond of trust is generated, and they respond better to the indications given by the doctors, as well as the medications that are prescribed for their ailments.

Latino patients prefer to be seen by Latino doctors and medical personnel, but there are simply too few of them," he said.

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