Hispanic Heritage Month is celebrated September 15-October 15. It reminds us to honor the accomplishments of Hispanic/Latino Americans, who currently make up 17% of the population, or approximately 52 million people. About 7.3% of nurses and LPNs in the US identify as Hispanic.
Dan Suarez, MA, RN, NYAM, clinical liaison manager at Mount Sinai Health System, believes that it is important to increase diversity in the healthcare field and encourage more Hispanic Americans to become nurses. He says, “When you have a diverse workforce, you have nurses with knowledge and skills to meet the diverse needs of patients. The patient’s cultural identification, spiritual affiliation, language and gender can all affect the care they need, and it is very important that the nurse understands that.”
Spanish-speaking senior citizens who find themselves in nursing facilities are comforted when they are able to interact in Spanish with their nurses. Speaking their native language makes it easier for them to report on how they feel and make specific requests. They also expect respect and warm personal interactions, which a non-Hispanic nurse may not be aware of. A common cultural difference is that family members (including extended family) may be more involved in the patient’s healthcare decisions and might visit often and in large groups. A Hispanic nurse will understand this and will know how to interact with them when she needs to tell them respectfully to be quieter or to leave.
Hispanic nurses have already made their mark on the American healthcare system. Here are some of the trailblazers worth knowing about:
Hector Hugo Gonzalez – The first Mexican-American nurse to earn his doctorate, in 1974. He was instrumental in instituting evening study programs in nursing at San Antonio College, so that nurses could complete their degrees while working full time.
Elizabeth Florez – Assistant nursing professor at DePaul University. She focuses on increasing the number of Hispanic nurses and addressing health disparities within the Latino community.
Ildaura Murillo-Rohde – One of the founders of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses in 1975. She was dean of nursing at SUNY’s School of Nursing and has a scholarship and award named in her honor.
Hilda Ortiz-Morales – Heads the HIV-HCV program at the Montefiore Medical Center Infectious Diseases Clinic in New York City. The center serves mostly Hispanic and African-Americans and provides a multidisciplinary approach.
Henrieta Villaescusa – The only Hispanic Public Health Supervisor in Los Angeles, the first Hispanic nurse to be appointed health administrator in the Department of Health, Education and Welfare and the first Mexican-American chief nurse consultant in the Office of Maternal & Child Health. She also served as the president of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.
Thank you to the AJC for publishing this list of outstanding nurses.
Know any Hispanic American nurses we should honor? Let us know in the comments.