Translating for patients
The Arizona Republic
Dec. 22, 2004
Pinning ceremony milestone for 1st bilingual nurses class
Jessica Sanchez Zavala, 29, has always translated for people around her who
don't speak English.
The Goodyear resident is a first-generation American whose family is from
Mexico, so she understands that people who don't speak English may need help
communicating in places like grocery stores, post offices or public schools.
"There's always a need for translation, everywhere," she said. "If I see them
struggling, I just offer."
So it seemed like a natural fit for
her when she learned about a program that would teach her to translate for
people in need of medical attention but with no way of saying so in English.
Now the Agua Fria High School graduate is two years into the Bilingual Nursing
Fellowship Program being offered by South Mountain and GateWay community
colleges and is one of about 20 students in the first class of the program.
The students recently gathered at South Mountain Community College for a pinning
ceremony that officially made them practical nurses and, more importantly to
Zavala, meant they will be registered nurses in one year.
"This is very exciting," she said
before the ceremony. "A lot of us didn't know if we'd make it this far."
Program officials said they had little doubt that the students would reach this
point of the program or that the graduates will help the state meet a growing
need for bilingual nurses.
In 2000, Arizona had only 83 percent of the registered nurses it needed,
according to a recent study by the Maricopa Community College District. By next
year, there will be enough RNs to fill only 79 percent of the
positions, the study said.
Teresa Rojas, president of the Phoenix chapter of the National Association of
Hispanic Nurses, said 4 percent of the nurses in Arizona are bilingual and only
2 percent of the nursing students in the state have that skill.
"I think we are going to increase those numbers pretty soon," she said.
During Zavala's pinning ceremony, Tony Bracamante, director of the bilingual
nurses program, announced that the program was recently awarded an additional
$250,000 by lawmakers. He said that will allow for a fourth group of students to
begin the training.
"That is really important, because in a few years, we'll have 100 students that
speak Spanish fluently," he said.