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The Need for Bilingual Nurses

The University of Texas Arlington's online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program offers a convenient path for working nurses to continue their education. This degree can help nurses improve their practice while boosting their careers and earning potential.

In addition to educational attainment, bilingual language skills can be a determining factor in increasing career opportunities and pay as well as improving patient care. Bilingual nurses are in high demand, reflecting rapidly changing demographics in the United States. This is especially true in states like Texas, where English is not the native language for a large portion of the population.

How Are Changing Demographics Impacting Language Use in the U.S.?

The percentage of people in the U.S. who speak languages other than English has grown exponentially over the past four decades. The cultural and linguistic diversification of the population will continue.

For instance, CNN analysis of U.S. Census Bureau data shows nearly 60 million Hispanic people in the U.S., making up about 18.4% of the total population. This statistic is projected to grow to 28.6% by 2060, representing roughly 119 million people.

This statistic does not translate precisely to languages used but suggests a large portion of the population speaks Spanish — all with varying degrees of fluency in English. Indeed, the 2018 Census survey found that an estimated 41 million people in the U.S. speak Spanish at home. Of course, there are many other languages spoken in the U.S., reflecting millions for whom English is, at best, a second language.

Regional differences also affect language use depending on the city, state and region. For instance, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates 35.5% of Texas residents speak a language other than English at home. Spanish is the language used at home for more than 80% of this population.

How Does This Affect Healthcare Providers?

Clearly, this continued shift in demographics and language use in the U.S. has many ramifications for the healthcare field. Providers are required by law to utilize interpreters for non-English speakers. Beyond regulations and mandates, the fluency of communication in healthcare settings greatly impacts the quality of care, patient-caregiver relationships and patient health outcomes.

Yet, there is a wide disparity between non-English-speaking patients and healthcare professionals who speak non-English languages. In fact, according to U.S. News & World Report, less than six percent of doctors identify themselves as Spanish-speaking.

The language barrier between healthcare workers and patients is compounded in areas with particularly high concentrations of non-English speakers. In Texas, 50% of Houston residents and 89% of Laredo residents speak a language other than English at home as of 2018.

Plus, family members often translate for patients in situations where interpreters are not readily available. This is not possible in situations like the COVID-19 pandemic when family visitation is limited or not allowed. Important medical information can also be lost in translation or skewed in meaning in this sort of situation.

What Does This Mean for Nurses?

To better serve their patients and improve patient health outcomes, healthcare organizations actively seek bilingual or multilingual staff, especially nurses. As professionals who provide the most constant communication with patients, nurses collect and dispense essential medical information throughout the healthcare process, including details about admission, patient education, consent and discharge. Language barriers must not limit the efficacy of any aspect of this process.

Nurses also provide comfort and support, building relationships with patients and their families. Patients may obviously have an easier time communicating in the language they are most comfortable speaking. Enabling multilingual communication fosters deeper trust in the healthcare process and can break down cultural barriers surrounding healthcare.

The high demand for bilingual healthcare staff is widely reflected in hiring preferences, promotional opportunities and income incentives for nurses. Speaking multiple languages can also open the door to an array of exciting and lucrative travel nursing jobs. Therefore, bilingual nurses have many unique opportunities within the nursing field and play an instrumental role in improving patient care throughout the industry.

Learn more about The University of Texas at Arlington's online RN to BSN program.


Center for Immigration Studies: 67.3 Million in the United States Spoke a Foreign Language at Home in 2018

CNN: Hispanics in the US Fast Facts

Diversity The Benefits of Being a Bilingual Nurse

Minority Nurse: The Growing Need for Bilingual Nurses

MedPro Staffing: Bilingual Travel Health Professionals Are in High Demand…So How Can You Become More Fluent? Bilingual Nurses Improve Patient Safety

U.S. Census Bureau:
Projections of Size and Composition of the U.S. Population: 2014 to 2060
Quick Facts: Texas

U.S. News & World Report: The U.S. Needs More Spanish-Speaking Doctors

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