UIHC offers free Spanish course to medical staff

BY KEVIN SVEC | JANUARY 23, 2014 5:00 AM

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Officials at the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics will offer a new Spanish course this spring for the medical staff to better accommodate the growing Latino population in Iowa. The class is offered free of charge to any medical personnel who want to learn Spanish.

“The goal of this course is not to replace interpreters but to build a good rapport with Latino patients and give them a better grasp on American medicine …” said Corinne Stanley, a UIHC language and culture facilitator. 

The class organizers aim to create a trusting environment for Latino patients, while closing the cultural gap in health care. They are focusing on cultural rituals, etiquette, pronunciation, and courtesy to aid the medical staff.

“It is one way to show that I care about another person, their language and their culture,” said Julie McKillip, a clinical research coordinator in the Dermatology Department, who is attending the class.

Twelve UIHC staff members have enrolled in the eight-week course, and the response has been positive.

“I believe there is a great need for health-care providers who can speak Spanish,” McKillip said. “We all use language to express ourselves in a very personal way.”

Some of the medical staff enrolled in the course spent time abroad and empathize with Latino patients about how it feels and the degree of anxiety involved in living in a different country.

McKillip lived in Brazil for a year and gained a valuable insight for the need for personnel in the health care to be bilingual.

Anthony Bock, a UIHC medical assistant, traveled throughout Latin America for six months in 2013. Upon his return, he had a newfound desire to learn Spanish.

“I know how it feels to go to a place where no one speaks your native language,” he said. “When I met people who spoke English on my travels, it was really nice.” 

According to Pew Research, 30 percent of Latino adults in the United States are Spanish-dominant. Since 2000, the Latino population has grown by 18 million. Today, roughly 5.1 percent of Johnson County’s population identifies as Latino — or 6,200 people. This is up more than 122 percent from the 2000 census, in which only 2,781 Johnson County residents were Latino.

Although the initial spike was more apparent in states such as California and Florida, the increase in the Latino population has dispersed throughout the country, said Mark Lopez of the Pew Research Center.

Mercy Hospital in Iowa City has also made advances to cater to the growing population. Hospital officials have used translator services for the past few years.

But UIHC officials want to utilize the course not only as a logistical move.

“I believe that being able to speak Spanish in the health-care setting will increase my ability to provide health care to the Latino population and connect with patients on a more personal level,” Stanley said.

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