Instead of heading to an exotic resort for some sun this summer, some Nevada State College alumni enrolled in a medical Spanish course in Guadalajara, Jalisco, Mexico, to learn to communicate better in their careers. Everyone knows that learning a second language can help no matter the field you’re employed in; this really rings true in the medical field.
This summer was the beginning of a new and interesting multicultural course within the school of nursing, the four-week medical Spanish immersion program.
“There is an increasing need for local nurses to have an understanding of both the culture and language of our Hispanic community in order to communicate with patients and provide proper treatment,” said Sherrilyn Coffman, interim dean of the school of nursing. “In turn, this program will also increase the marketability of NSC’s BSN graduates.”
As the Hispanic population in Southern Nevada continues to grow, the need for bilingual medical professionals has also heightened. To answer this need, this immersive program was developed and launched. Taught at the Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara, the NSC program was open to licensed Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates as well as students nearing the completion of their degrees. Under the supervision of Pam Call, NSC nursing instructor and program coordinator, the six students (five NSC nursing graduates and one from University of Nevada, Las Vegas) were in Mexico June 25 to July 20.
As participant Paula Fama said on the second day of the course, “So far, I have already learned so much. I now understand what many of the articles meant when it comes to gender roles and religions of Mexico. I will be tired from all the homework and readings I must do, but I am looking forward to the next lessons of these courses.”
It is often noted that the best way to learn a language is to live within it. With that in mind, students accepted into the course stayed with a host family in Guadalajara during the program. The first two weeks of the course include an immersive language study held at Universidad Autónoma de Guadalajara focusing on medical terminology.
“The instructors at the university are top-notch,” said program coordinator Pam Call. “They incorporate creative learning techniques in the classroom and are extremely passionate about their country and their language. The instructors have inspired some of the students to continue on with Spanish courses when they return to Las Vegas.”
During the final two weeks of the course, students visited hospitals to interact with patients. As their focus was on practicing the Spanish language, tasks included documenting patient history and discussing care, rather than participating in medical procedures. Participants were also instructed on the cultural aspects of rendering nursing care to the Hispanic population.
“In our culture class we learned about alternative medicine,” said participant Larissa LaMert. “As nurses, we need to be aware that the Hispanic culture takes part in herbal remedies as a part of their normal regimen. Doctors will also incorporate alternative medicine as part of their treatment plan.”
“My favorite Spanish sentence of the day,” according to participant Falisha Ollison-Leffler, who wrote this on her blog about the experience, “is ‘pongo su brazo sobre la mesa para que yo puede chequar su precion’ or ‘put your arm on the table so that I can check your pressure.’ ”
Because of its uniqueness, the course has an application process. Applicants submitted letters of reference, an essay and transcripts with priority given to NSC Bachelor of Science in Nursing graduates. Applicants were reviewed by NSC faculty in collaboration with education director Susan Adamek from St. Rose Dominican Hospitals. The summer course was funded by the Nevada Hospital Association.