Bilingual Nurses Are A Driving Force In Healthcare

October 18, 2021


Megan Bebout

FMS---Bilingual-NursesImagine you’re in need of medical attention, but there’s no one around who speaks your language. You repeat yourself over and over, like a broken record, desperate for someone to understand what you’re trying to say. And when no one does, you’re treated to the best of the nurse’s ability, and sent home.



Bilingual Nurses Are A Driving Force In Healthcare



That’s just another day for some people who speak limited English. As the diversity of U.S. demographics continue to grow and evolve, the demand for more bilingual nurses also increases. In a country where more than 41 million folk speak Spanish as their native language and where Chinese is the native language to nearly 3.5 million people, you’d think there would be more linguistically-diverse medical workers available. Alas, only about 20 percent of Americans are fluent in two or more languages—what’s up with that?


Bilingual medical travelers and life-saving communication

As a medical professional, you know that communication is the winning lottery ticket to patient care, not only for the overall wellbeing of the patient, but for their families and home caregivers, as well. When you don’t speak the same language as the person or people you’re treating, how are you supposed to accurately diagnose and treat them? And when patients and healthcare providers can’t get on the same page as one another, nobody wins. That’s where bilingual nurses swoop in to save the day!

Bilingual nurses are registered nurses (RNs) with linguistic superpowers and the ability to fluently speak, write, and understand at least two languages, most popularly English and Spanish.

Since bilingual nurses are the rare unicorns of their field, many facilities utilize a translator to act as the middleman between the patient and care provider. Much like the game of “telephone,” the process has its flaws. I mean, what happens if the translator mixes up or misunderstands a word and what if a patient’s care is affected? We could fall down the rabbit hole of “what ifs” and worst-case-scenarios, but why do that when we can talk about the magnificence of bilingual nurses?

“There is an incredible demand for nurses who are bilingual,” said Paula Schipiour, MSN, RN, and associate director of the Chicago Bilingual Nurse Consortium. “Here in the Chicago-area, we get calls from many hospitals that are looking to fill positions with nurses who can communicate with patients who aren’t proficient in English.”

Skilled communicators in at least two languages, these incredible people use their expertise to better serve patients from a wide variety of backgrounds. They also make patients feel more comfortable and at ease during difficult conversations by adding a cultural familiarity.

“We’re important because we provide patient-centered care at a more personal level,” Allison Jimenez, professional bilingual travel nurse, agreed. “I think we’re even more essential due to the growing population of non-English speakers in the country. I believe there is a demand for bilingual medical workers, especially Spanish-speaking medical workers. I also believe that the demand varies according to location.”  

“Every time I have encountered a Spanish-speaking patient, the patient is relieved and thankful that I can speak the language, and that they can be understood,” Allison shared. “At times, I’ve had patients tell me that they feel more comfortable speaking with me than with the doctors because they trust that what I am saying is reliable.”


Bridging the language barrier gap in healthcare 

Ultimately, in addition to the obvious responsibility of saving lives, their role is to help to their patients feel safe, sound and understood. Better communication in healthcare practices make sure everyone has access to quality care, regardless of their native tongue or other unique characteristics.

Folks who aren’t fluent in English shouldn’t have to go over the river and through the woods to find accessible and appropriate treatment, and a big part of reliable treatment is being clearly understood. And in an industry where miscommunication could be the literal difference between life and death, unaddressed language barriers could quickly lead to low-quality, unsafe, and costly healthcare.

In fact, compared to their English-proficient counterparts, those with limited fluency in English experience a greater risk of “line infections, surgical infections, falls, pressure ulcers, and surgical delays,” plus a greater chance of readmissions because of patient difficulties comprehending how to properly manage their condition and take medication.

“It’s highly preferable to have a caregiver who understands the patient’s language,” Paula said. “When people have multiple questions or are afraid to ask questions, they’re much more willing to talk to someone who understands. It’s a safety issue.”

It goes without saying that bilingual nurses are a gift to the healthcare community. Kindhearted and emotionally intelligent, many bilingual professionals can empathize with and maybe relate to the cultural challenges faced by those who aren’t proficient in English and that gives them the exclusive superpower of noticing nonverbal cues and subtle signs that may be less obvious to others.

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How to fill the demand for bilingual nurses

Now, you might be thinking to yourself: “Gee, this language barrier thing is a bummer, but being a bilingual RN sounds pretty dang dope! I took Spanish in the third grade; I wonder how I could become a certified bilingual nurse.” And if that is on your mind, it’s your lucky day! The process to become a professional bilingual RN is not much different than what to do to be a nurse in the first place unless you opt for even more certifications.

Once you’ve earned your bachelor’s degree in nursing and have that RN license in hand, you can start applying for jobs as long as you’re fluent in at least two languages, with native-level skills in reading, writing, and speaking. Some medical facility positions may take into heavy consideration your proficiency with computer skills, bedside manner, and the ability to work with different backgrounds. You know, just the little things.

If, on the other hand, you’re itching for that little leg up, you can look into additional certifications, like Medical Spanish for Nurses, and set yourself even further apart from your competition in all the best ways. It’s not a requirement, but it does look great on your professional resume (hint, hint. Wink, wink).


States that need bilingual nurses the most

Basically, every state in the nation has a need for linguistically diverse medical professionals, but there are some places in the U.S. with a stronger need than others. Even though Spanish is by far the most common second language needed for patients, others come in handy, too depending on the region of the country.

“Spanish is the priority language nationally,” said Allison Squires, PhD, RN, FAAN. “Other languages depend on where you live and who is migrating there.”

Fusion travel nurse, Allison, can relate. She said that because she currently works in Mississippi, she only encounters native Spanish-speakers about once a month, but when she worked in Arizona or Nevada, she treated patients limited in English on the daily.

“For example, in the New York City and New England regions,” Squires continued. “There are now large numbers of Russian speakers. These individuals often come from former Soviet Union states where Russian was the official language. Other parts of the country, the Texas and Louisiana, have large numbers of Vietnamese speakers who came to the U.S. as refugees or immigrants. Other than Spanish, language demand is often specific to a local healthcare service area.”

Out of all the 50 states, we’ve narrowed it down for maximum convenience, because we’re all about working smarter, not harder.

  • CALIFORNIA. California has the highest level of linguistic diversity in the U.S., so they’re super in need of a variety of linguistic specialists. Know any Spanish, Chinese, Vietnamese, or Russian? If so, search for travel and bilingual nurse jobs in the Golden State!
  • ILLINOIS. Amongst one of the top 10 diverse states in the country, Illinois is another prime destination for Spanish-speaking nurses. Especially in Chicago where there’s at least 153 languages spoken in homes across the city. Want to be a Chicago nurse? Peep travel nursing jobs and apply today!

  • TEXAS. Home to the second-highest population of people in the U.S. who are limited in English, the native language to nearly 30 percent of the total Texas population is Spanish. Saddle up for the nursing adventure of a lifetime because everyone knows that everything is bigger and better in Texas. Find your nursing job in the Lone Star State.

Don’t let one-of-a-kind career opportunities slip through the cracks and search bilingual nurse jobs in destinations where you can make the difference of a lifetime.


Bilingual nurse + travel = limitless possibilities

Slight confession: Math is not my forte. But there’s one formula I know holds true, and that is, a bilingual nurse plus a bilingual nurse travel job equals a world of limitless possibilities.

A career as a Fusion Medical traveler gives you complete control over where, when, and how you work as a medical professional. Take your badass language skills and follow your heart to the bilingual nurse job that will fill your cup, metaphorically and literally.

“For me, the best benefit is being able to openly communicate with the patient and family,” Fusion travel nurse, Allison, said. “Being a bilingual medical professional allows me to provide personalized care to my sick patients and put them at ease knowing they are being heard and understood.”

Even more bilingual nurse job perks include:

  • Access to exclusive travel jobs with high-paying bilingual nurse salaries
  • Meaningful job satisfaction by helping patients who may not have received proper treatment without you
  • Possible hiring preferences and first dibs on most-wanted travel nursing jobs

And those don’t even mention the additional benefits you get by simply working with Fusion Medical Staffing. As a Fusion traveler, you’re entitled to competitive pay packages, a tax-free stipend, 401k retirement fund matching, certification reimbursement, insurance coverage, and more!

And just in case you need a smidge more convincing, Allison, bilingual Fusion travel nurse, shared why she would recommend to other medical professionals that they should pick up another language or two:

“I would recommend [learning a second language] for several reasons,” Allison started. “First, they will be growing their knowledge. Second, they will probably learn a lot of cultural information while learning the new language. Third, knowing another language will allow the med workers to understand and communicate with the patient. Lastly, learning a new language will provide better medical treatment to the patient.”

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We all want to be listened to, heard, and understood, so why would that differ with your medical care? Bilingual nurses are vital to the overall healthcare system because they connect patients who may be less proficient in English with the high-quality care they deserve. You have the power to make or break a patient’s healthcare experience, so what are you waiting for? Your travel nursing career is calling.

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