SCSU Helping Train Spanish-Speaking Health Professionals

Southern Connecticut State University (SCSU) wants to bridge the linguistic gap between health professionals and Spanish-speaking patients.

Beginning this summer, SCSU will offer a 12-credit certificate program called a Certificate in Spanish and Latino Cultures for Health Professionals to working medical personnel like doctors, nurses and EMTs.

The program is a shorter version of the university’s current minor program and could take less than a year to complete, as opposed to a year and a half that it takes to complete the minor program.

The program will help professionals in the medical field communicate with patients and understand vocabulary they actually need to know in their profession.

"We want to make sure that the worker (the clinician, the nurse) is able to understand the patient and be also conscious of the cultural background of the diverse, cultural background of the Hispanic population," the associate professor of Spanish at CSCU, William Flores, said.

Flores said students need to have some level of proficiency in Spanish, whether they took courses in high school, college or even traveled to a foreign country and a placement exam.

For those interested who are not proficient in Spanish, they may take the course Elementary Spanish for Health Professionals before the begin the certificate program.

Dina Martinez lives in New Haven but is originally from Puerto Rico and she only speaks Spanish. She told NBC Connecticut o that it is tough to communicate with health professionals because of the language barrier.

"When you go somewhere and find that no one can speak Spanish, I can’t communicate with them. So I have to bring an interpreter," Martinez told NBC Connecticut in Spanish.

Juan Salas understands Martinez's situation.

The Guilford resident has been able to learn English, though he said it wasn’t easy to head to the doctor’s office just after he moved to Connecticut from Venezuela in 2004.

"When I first came here it was tough because some words are not exactly the same," Salas said.

Martinez said opening up the certificate program is a positive push forward, especially for patients like her.

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