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The Impact of Latina and Latino Nurses in the Community.

By Norma G. Cuellar PhD., RN, FAAN President, National Association of Hispanic Nurses Professor, University of AL, Tuscaloosa, AL.

According to the Bureau of Labor statistics, Latinos make up only seven percent of registered nurses (RNs). The Latino nurse population has grown only 0.7 percent over the last 20 years. There is a dire need to increase the number of Latino nurses to care for the increasing number of Latinos in our country. Furthermore, there is a grave shortage of Latinos with baccalaureate and advanced degrees who improve the quality of care of Latinos. Why is this important? Because we know that Latino patients tend to receive better health care from nurses of their own race or ethnicity, particularly in primary care and mental health settings.

Non-English-speaking patients experience better health care, greater medical comprehension, and greater likelihood of keeping follow-up appointments when they see a health care provider who speaks their language.

The impact of education on Latinos from disadvantaged backgrounds is alarming and responsible for education inequities. Educational social determinants contribute to barriers of academic progress in Latinos. It is well noted that children who receive education from under-developed geographic areas do not finish high school, do not go to college, and enter the workforce at an early age. Latino students are not counseled to take college preparatory classes, are not given information on how to apply for college, and are not counseled in managing the financial implications of completing a degree. Many Latino students have not had the opportunities of accelerated college programs or advanced placement (AP) courses in high school. Because of this, they are often not competitive to enter a baccalaureate program, specifically in nursing.

The educational inequities can be seen in the differences in education access and success at the national levels. Only 11 percent of the Latino population graduate from a 4-year university compared to 34 percent of Whites. Percentages of degrees conferred for masters and doctoral levels are abysmal compared to Whites. In 2012, at the master’s level, 72.8 percent of degrees were conferred to Whites and only 7.1 percent to Latinos. At the doctoral level (PhD, MD, EdD, DDS, JD), 74.3 percent of degrees were conferred to Whites with only 5.8 percent to Latinos.

We must encourage Latinos to consider nursing as a career. If you are young or old, you can go back to school to become a nurse. The benefits of nursing as a career are limitless. Salaries are better than they have ever been and opportunities for professional growth are substantial. Latino nurses make an impact in families and communities. If you have interest in becoming an RN, please contact me and I will provide you with information. You can also look at our web page for more information about Latino nurses at www.nahnnet.org.

Dr. Norma Cuellar received her baccalaureate degree in nursing from University of Southern Mississippi, her master’s degree in nursing from Louisiana Health Sciences Center, and her doctorate of science in nursing from University of Alabama at Birmingham. She completed a post-doctoral fellowship from the University of Virginia in Complementary and Alternative Medicine. Her clinical background began in coronary care ICU in 1984. Since then, she has practiced in a variety of health care settings including home health, incarceration, school health, and long-term care facilities. Dr. Cuellar has taught since 1989 in a variety of nursing programs. Her focus in teaching has been leadership, research, gerontology, and sleep.