June 10th, 2013
Learning a foreign language can be a great step to advance your healthcare career. Whether you are a physician, PA, nurse, therapist or other professional, it’s important to be able to communicate clearly with patients and families from a wide range of ethnic backgrounds. In many parts of the country, that means being able to carry on a conversation in Spanish. According to U.S. Census statistics, Hispanics are the fastest growing minority group in the country. Today, Spanish-speaking communities can be found throughout the Midwest, New England and Pacific Northwest, and constitute a size-able percentage of the population in California, Arizona, Texas, New York and Florida.
However, healthcare professionals in California often treat patients who speak Mandarin Chinese, Japanese, Korean or other languages from the Pacific basin. In other parts of the U.S., knowing Portuguese, Hawaiian, French, German, Italian or even Russian can be a clear advantage.
If you decide to study a foreign language, there are plenty of options to consider, from online courses to audio CD’s and face-to-face classes with an instructor. You could also use your next vacation for a language immersion experience in a foreign country. The biggest considerations are your own learning style, as well as the time and money you want to invest in picking up this skill. For example, if you would like to make a career change in the next 12 months, you might opt for an intense learning program designed to make you fluent well before you start applying for a new job.
If you live in an area with a large ethnic population, you know how difficult and confusing it can be to communicate with a non-English speaking patient and family. Important information relating to the diagnosis, treatment or follow-up care can get lost in the translation, as well as the cultural nuances. That’s why healthcare organizations place a high value on conversational language skills. By taking the time to learn a foreign language, you can open the door to a new career opportunity.
May 14th, 2012
As the most recent U.S. Census points out, the Hispanic population is growing rapidly. In 2010, about 50.5 million Americans (16 percent of the total) were of Hispanic origin. That’s a big jump from 2000, when there were 35.3 million Hispanics or 13 percent of the total population.
If you are on the front lines of health care delivery, you’re undoubtedly noticed the change in your patient population as well. In order to communicate with Hispanics, it’s becoming increasingly important to have people on your staff who speak Spanish or habla español. However, not all healthcare organizations recognize the importance of language skills when recruiting, screening and hiring new employees. That’s particularly true in communities that had relatively low Hispanic populations until just a few years ago. In those cases, it’s vital for HR departments to recognize the shift in demographics and actively recruit a diverse staff that reflects the local community.
However, healthcare recruiters must also wrestle with the difficult question about what to do when a well-qualified physician, nurse or therapist is more fluent in Spanish - or another foreign language – than English. A candidate who has difficulties in understanding and responding to questions in English faces an uphill struggle in the hiring process – regardless of other credentials and qualifications. After all, no one wants there to be a misunderstanding about a patient diagnosis, treatment plan or prescription due to a language mix-up.
In this situation, it is essential for the job candidate to focus on improving his English skills and tell the recruiter that any language issues are likely to be temporary. A candidate who is fluent in Spanish should also emphasize the importance of hiring a professional with that skill set, perhaps citing the local demographic trends. In any case, it’s important for both healthcare professionals and organizations to understand the importance of multiple language capabilities in providing high-quality patient care.