BSN student Valeria Soria Guzman has been translating for her parents for as long as she can remember. She knows three languages so far – and is learning two more – and she aspires to use her polylingual abilities to increase access and equity for health care patients through the nursing field.
“It’s so hard when you’re sick and when you’re at your lowest point and to not have somebody who understands you,” says Guzman. “To not have somebody who can share that compassion with you in your own language is difficult.”
Guzman moved to the U.S. from Mexico with her family when she was two years old. She is a first-year nursing student at the Bill and Sue Gross School of Nursing at the University of California Irvine (UCI), and she is also the first in her entire family to attend college.
After learning English in the third grade, Guzman found that her background in Spanish made it easy for her to pick up other languages as well. Aside from English and Spanish, Guzman also knows French, is working on American Sign Language and has just begun to dip her toes into Portuguese. As a child, Guzman became her family’s translator at more than just the grocery store – she found herself translating at medical offices, filling out complicated documents with her limited children’s vocabulary of English, and trying to get both her parents and the physicians to understand each other.
“I feel like that’s why I want to go into nursing specifically so that I can walk a patient through the treatment and help them along the way, even if they don’t speak the language,” she says.
Guzman is constantly seeking opportunities at UCI to help those facing a language barrier, especially in the medical field. Currently, she works on the translating team for a research study that is looking for ways to help dementia patients through technology.
“A lot of their patients are lower income and Spanish-speaking only,” Guzman says. “So what I do is translate documents, like ones from the research, into Spanish so the researchers can have focus groups with these Spanish-speaking participants.”
Guzman sees the accessibility of documents in languages other than English as a major point in achieving accessible care. In the future, she plans to use her abilities to serve non-English speaking communities wherever she is most needed. She especially wants to serve areas lacking in non-Spanish speakers, even if it means leaving the large Spanish-speaking community that she values so much behind.
“The thing I’ve missed most since coming to UCI is speaking Spanish in a community setting, and I feel like that’s why I like to seek out a bunch of different Spanish speaking opportunities because I want to have that again,” says Guzman.
Our Nurse of the Week is Mark Casanova, a senior in the Indiana University (IU) Bloomington School of Nursing, who is set to become the school’s first Latino male nursing graduate. He is set to graduate this May and hopes his story will help inspire other people of color to not let anything stop their dreams.
Casanova tells IDSNews.com that he will never forget when he first realized the meaning of being a nurse. He was in nursing school, observing a cesarean section during his junior year, where he saw the doctor deliver two babies. He still remembers the mother’s face when she held her twin girls for the first time and it opened his eyes to the effect he could have on patients. Thanks to his clinical experience in nursing school, Casanova has decided to start in a medical-surgical unit after graduation.
According to Casanova, he has known he wanted to do something medical since he was a kid, but discovered in high school that he really wanted to pursue a nursing career. Working in hospitals as a nursing student has only strengthened his desire to become one. Casanova says he is attracted to nursing because it allows him to get to know people and gain medical knowledge.
Being the first Latino male nurse to graduate from the IU School of Nursing is a story Casanova will share with his kids one day and he hopes that his story will also help inspire other people of color to not let anything stop their dreams.
To learn more about IU-Bloomington’s first Latino male nursing graduate, Mark Casanova, visit here.
The University of Alabama (UA) Capstone College of Nursing recently received a $1.7 million grant from the Health Resources and Services Administration Nursing Workforce Diversity Program to increase the number of baccalaureate-prepared Latino nurses.
With help from the grant, the university will target and recruit 80 Latino associate degree registered nurses to earn their Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree through the College of Nursing’s online RN-BSN program as part of the Bama-Latino Project.
Dr. Norma Cuellar, UA professor of nursing, tells the Ledger-Enquirer: “Right now, the RN population is made up of 83 percent white/Caucasian nurses who are caring for a very diverse population. While we teach our students about cultural sensitivity, we know that many times when people are being cared for by someone who is not like them, there is a barrier that may impact health care outcomes. Sometimes it’s communication, sometimes it’s cultural. Both can pose a problem in delivered health care.”
Latinos make up 17.3 percent of the US population, but fewer than 5 percent of US nurses are Latino according to UA News. Latinos aren’t pursuing nursing because many do not receive the academic support they need in junior and high school in addition to financial barriers that keep them from pursuing higher education. UA hopes that once students in the Bama-Latino Project complete their bachelor’s degrees in nursing they will continue to pursue masters and doctoral nursing degrees.
To learn more about the Bama-Latino Project, visit here.