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How a Second Language Can Help You Excel in Your Nursing Career

The United States has a diverse population — one that is expected to continue to grow in breadth into the next half century. Because of these demographic trends, a greater percentage of patients may speak a language other than English. Given the importance of communication, bilingual nurses are finding that a second language can help excel their nursing careers.

Changing Demographics

According to a 2012 report by the U.S. Census Bureau, the nation’s population is expected to become much more racially and ethnically diverse through 2060, when minority groups will represent 57 percent of the total population. Projections show that all race groups will increase through that time period, with the exception of the non-Hispanic white population. The Hispanic population is expected to grow substantially — from approximately 53 million up to nearly 129 million by 2060 when one in three U.S. residents will be Hispanic. The Asian population is on track to more than double as well. The overall growth will be so significant that by 2043 it is anticipated that the U.S. will become a majority-minority nation in which no single racial group will comprise the majority.

Even without taking into account the future trends, current data shows nearly one in six U.S. residents are of Hispanic origin, and 37 percent of the entire nation — or approximately 116.2 million people — belong to a minority group.

Call for Bilingual Nurses

The current demographic data coupled with the projected changes may have a substantial impact on the delivery of healthcare. The ability to maintain clear and consistent communication with a patient is key to providing personalized, high-quality care. Nurses are often the main communicators with patients, serving as the facilitators between family, caregivers, physicians and other healthcare providers.

Speaking the same language as patients is imperative to ensuring that providers obtain critical information. It is as important that nurses are able to relay information back to the patient. Furthermore, nurses who have similar cultural backgrounds are typically better-positioned to provide culturally competent care. Such care often leads to improved patient outcomes and has become a fast-growing initiative throughout the healthcare community.

With nearly three out of every five patients belonging to a minority group by 2060, the need for nurses — particularly Spanish-speakers and those who speak Asian languages — is anticipated to rise in response. Nurses who are not bilingual may find it worthwhile to incorporate language studies into their existing degree programs. Once fluent in a second language, nurses may realize several advantages. For example, nursing career opportunities may become more abundant — both entry-level and beyond. Hospitals and healthcare facilities, particularly those in and around highly-diverse communities, may specifically recruit bilingual nurses. In some instances, healthcare facilities may offer sign-on bonuses, increased hourly wages or more flexible work schedules as incentives to nurses who understand the cultural background and speak one of the community’s prominent languages.

Career opportunities may also be even better in some states. In terms of Hispanic populations, it is typically thought that states bordering Mexico have the highest demand for Spanish-speaking nurses, but the need continues to spread across the country. The border states of California and Texas do have the highest Hispanic populations in the nation at 14.4 million and 9.8 million, respectively. However as of 2011, eight states — five of which are not border states — had Hispanic populations exceeding one million. Recruiters are interested in connecting with bilingual nurses who can serve those specific patient populations as well as others throughout the nation.

Looking Ahead

Demographic changes in the U.S. population are occurring rapidly and are anticipated to continue to do so for decades to come. As a result, the need for bilingual nurses is likely to increase in response. Nurses who take steps to become fluent in a second language may be in a better position to provide culturally competent care to patients as well as take advantage of more lucrative career opportunities.

Learn about the UT Arlington online RN to BSN program.


Brown, A., & Lopez, M. H. (2013, August 29). Mapping the Latino Population, By State, County and City. Retrieved from

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Forster, H. (n.d.). 4 Reasons to Add a Foreign Language to Your Nursing Transcript. Retrieved from

National Nursing Workforce Study. (n.d.). Retrieved from

U.S. Census Bureau Projections Show a Slower Growing, Older, More Diverse Nation a Half Century from Now. (2012, December 12). Retrieved from

Woog, D. (n.d.). Wanted: Bilingual Healthcare Workers. Retrieved from

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