Hospitals Work To Address Linguistic, Cultural Needs of Immigrant Patients
Two newspapers recently examined health care providers' efforts to accommodate the cultural and linguistic needs of immigrants. Summaries appear below.
New York Times: The Times on Sunday examined how hospitals in New York and elsewhere are working to "respond to a growing and increasingly diverse population of immigrants" by increasing their "cultural competency." The article profiles the efforts of Brooklyn-based Maimonides Medical Center, which recently opened a $1 million clinic designed to cater to the area's fast-growing Chinese population. The clinic's doctors speak Mandarin or Cantonese, and staff work closely with patients to help them understand the benefits of drawing blood, undergoing preventive care and other principles of Western medicine. Other hospitals are accommodating immigrants' needs by turning Arab patients' beds toward Mecca, serving traditional ethnic foods and accommodating special immunization needs. According to the Times, the efforts "reflec[t] a broader national shift in health care" as urban hospitals move beyond ... translation services ... and acknowledge that language is not the only barrier they face in treating people from all over the globe" (Confessore, New York Times, 5/4).
- Richmond Times-Dispatch: The Times-Dispatch on Monday examined how hospitals in the Richmond, Va., area are actively recruiting nurses who speak other languages, especially Spanish. A 2004 federal survey of registered nurses finds that 88.4% of RNs are white, 4.6 % are black, 3.3% are Asian or Pacific Islander, 1.8% are Hispanic, and 0.4% are American Indian/Alaska native. The 2004 U.S. Census also found that 75.5% of the population is white, 12.2% is black and 14.2% is Hispanic. Such figures have prompted U.S. hospitals to diversify their nursing staffs. For example, Virginia Commonwealth University School of Nursing actively recruits Spanish-speaking nurses, and the school recently launched a program that allows Spanish-speaking nurses to gain their bachelor's degrees. Bon Secours Richmond Health System runs a mobile health clinic that caters largely to Hispanic patients, and at CJW Medical Center, nurses and other staff have access to a manual that describes customs and traditions of different ethnic, racial and religious groups. Other hospitals are accommodating immigrants by providing materials and forms in multiple languages, and Henrico Doctors' Hospital posts informational signs in the emergency department and main lobby in both English and Spanish (Smith, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 6/5).