Latino nurses are slowly rising in the medical field but out of the 2.8 million registered nurses in the United States, only 4.8% of them are of Latin American descent. Nurses have one of the most difficult jobs to do and often deal with a lot of challenging and stressful situations working in the medical field. BIPOC and Latina/x nurses are also no stranger to the racism and microaggressions projected onto them from patients. But with all of those struggles, many nurses find a way to get to know their patients on a personal level. Nurses will often treat the same patient for a few days and a kind bond with them is vital, especially if that patient is a disabled child. That strong bond that is based on mutual trust makes recovery a lot smoother and faster for everyone involved.
Growing up with Spina Bifida I saw first hand the lack of diversity in the number of nurses that made up the medical field in the ’90s. Looking back I’m also easily able to identify how this affected my care.
Courtesy of Andrea Lausell
The few Latina nurses I did have during my stays, made the experience a million times better. Not only were these nurses quick and efficient at their job, but they also were able to connect with me on levels many of the other nurses couldn’t. While coming into my room for rounds, the Latinx nurses would casually switch from English to Spanish during our conversations which not only kept up my Spanish skills up when all of my medical team primarily spoke English, it also made me feel like I was home with my family which brought some normalcy into my life. It was nice to see the Latina/x nurses also share jokes and laughs with my parents in Spanish. These moments of familiarity between my parents and my medical care providers were probably the only times I would see them smile during my stay. Because these few Latina nurses were good at their job, not only was I able to heal faster physically, mentally I was able to heal from trauma knowing I could confide in someone who understood my culture, my family and how we dealt with my being a disabled Latina. They also played a huge role in my self-confidence and my understanding that I was entirely capable of making something of myself. Seeing strong Latinas in a powerful profession gave me something I could aspire to be. Being stuck in my hospital bed wasn’t going to be forever and I could accomplish my dream they way my nurses had accomplished their own and be successful like them. These nurses weren’t just medical professionals to me, they became almost like extended family I couldn’t wait to see and learn from.
Others though weren’t as lucky in having one of the few Latina nurses and being privileged to have parents that could speak the same language with all my doctors and nurses.
Courtesy of Andrea Lausell
Recalling a specific hospital stay, I had a roommate that was a newborn baby awaiting surgery. Unfortunately, none of the doctors or nurses were able to communicate with the mother in her Spanish language and they had failed to provide her we an interpreter. My mom was able to bond with the mother and eventually told the mom the unfortunate news about her child’s heart which had a hole that was continuing to expand. Looking back, it’s easy for me to see how unfair it was for my mother to have to deal with the emotional labor of giving troubling news to another mother as well as providing her with support after. It was a job meant for medical professionals and interpreters and was a requirement by law that hospital should have respected to give that mother all the accommodations needed for her to know what was happening to her child. Had there been more Latina/x in medical positions, families would be able to access the proper care they deserve and would ensure that this situation would never have to happen again. Nurses not only care for patients physically but they pick up the slack of what many doctors forget to do when it comes to the emotional wellbeing of their patients.
“We all know, Latinas get sh*t done for the people they care for in life.”
Courtesy of Andrea Lausell
They’re the backbone of our families and our communities. Whether we’re celebrating our victories, or reflecting on our failures, we turn to the mujeres of our families for their unconditional support. Due to our high emphasis on community and caring for others in the Latinx community, Latina/xs make the best nurses and doctors and deserve the opportunities to change the medical world in order to improve it. The 4.8% statistic is slowly rising of Latina/x in medicine, and hopefully, that statistic begins to pick up momentum. More Latina/x in the medical field will not only even out the profession that is often dominated by those that are white but allows young Latina/x to see themselves represented and know that this is a profession that desperately needs them and they’re worthy of acquiring. If it weren’t for the few Latina nurses that had cared for me during all 13 operations I had on my back and brain, I wouldn’t the strong, courageous and most of all healthy Disabled Latina that I am today. If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t have known that it was okay for me to go for job opportunities I originally thought didn’t want people like me. I owe a lot of my health and success to all the Latina nurses/doctors I had in my life. They were the key to acquiring quality care and had improved my life immensely. We all need and should make an effort encourage our little nenas to seek STEM careers and know that they are worthy of becoming a nurse and or doctor just as any other ethnicity and man in the field.