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Bilingual nurses?


Is anybody taking classes in a foreign language to prepare themselves for nursing? Does anyones school curriculum include foreign language as a requirement? I have been thinking that learning Spanish would be a very good thing to do. I wonder if there are Spanish courses geared specifically toward those in the medical field?


Hello Kim, In the city I live (NYC) Spanish is very useful. I am sure this is true in many cities.

I studied French, German and Chinese. I only get to use French (ER Ped, I am a volunteer, some Haitian moms can speak French apart from Creole, so it's useful). The other two are not useful at all. I hope to learn Spanish soon when I can find some time!


I have also been considering the same thing.....In my college they offer a conversational spanish course that I plan on taking. I have also seen the programs for the computer that you can buy to study it on your own at home.....they run around 20.00. Good luck....:D

I took 3 years of french in High School, and 2 semesters of French in college. Its a requirement here, unless you can test out at intermediate level (which i couldnt). I live in Missouri, lots of Spanish immigrants in the area (pork processing plant 40 miles away), so Spanish would be wonderful, and French here is pretty useless. And if you dont use it, your lose it. I wish I would have done spanish, but they didnt offer anything except french at my high school.

Consider taking an American Sign Language class? That has been the best "foreign language" class I have ever taken. I use it about every day too! (besides, it looks pretty) :)



Has 36 years experience.

Hispanics are the "majority minority" and therefore it would be prudent for all nurses, I think, to know Spanish. Depending on immigrant patterns in your community, many other languages could be helpful. I worked somewhere where we had alot of Vietnamese and, even though we had some interpreters, there were a lot of dialects that baffled them.

My plan when my son gets older is to volunteer in the clinic that serves hispanics and force myself to speak Spanish even if it kills me. Most hispanics are eager to assist non-spanish-speaking learners.

In the meantime, when working through an interpreter, make eye contact with the person (the patient or the person speaking for the patient) that is speaking even if it seems weird. You may want to look at the interpreter but do this only when they are the only one speaking. Try to have MORE eye contact with the person being interpreted for and try to follow the conversation as much as possible. Appear interested and engaged. I had HS spanish and I can often understand some of what they say EVEN some nuance that the interpreter might not give you thanks to looking at their body language.

I always try to get in touch with what my feelings would be about receiving care by people who couldn't even speak my language. Think how scary that would be, much less that they wouldn't be culturally sensitive to health-illness norms for me.

My understanding is that MANY but obviously not all nursing programs do not have language as a pre-req because they are time intensive to take and theyw ould displace other classes. Learning a language can be part of your life-long committment to being a learner.

Hey Kim!

Its ironic that you would inquire about a Spanish class for nursing students. My good friend and I were just talking about taking such a course last night. The local community college (which has an ADN program) does have such a course in its continuing education curriculm. The university I attend (BSN program) supposedly offers such a course as well, but not every term (and truthfully I have never seen it listed in the schedule of classes). Anyway, my point is check out other schools besides your own to see if they offer such a course. Look in continuing ed as well as credit course listings. Also, do some research on the internet for such programs ( they are out there, I know because I looked ...but I dont remember the actual sites). If the demand is high enough in your class for such a program there may be a way to bring such a class to your school. Find a supportive member of your nursing faculty to help facilitate this. It can be done!

Good luck in your pursuit!!



Specializes in ER, Hospice, CCU, PCU.

In our area Russian is fastly becomming the most dominant foreign language spokes. Our discharge instruction program will currently print out instructions in either English or Spanish. I'm hoping that we will be able to upgrade that to include Russian.

I am afraid however that learning a new language is one new trick this old dog won't be able to learn. I'll leave it for the younger generation.:mad: :rolleyes:

Brandy....I agree that sign language would be a plus as well. When I was in Jr. High I helped out the deaf children in my school because well....no one else really wanted to bother with them. I especially remember a little boy named Timmy and a little girl named Nicki....they were my favorites. Both were about six years old and I think I was 12. It was quite interesting to dwelve in thier lives and it thrilled them to have someone else to "speak" with besides each other. It brings to mind an episode of ER I think it was where a man was restrained and was fighting his restraints until they finally realized he was deaf and they had taken away his only tool of communication. It was very sad and they only had one person who could sign. It made quite an impact on me. I know the basics...the alphabet and a few other things, but I look forward to learnign this as well.....thanks

I'm curious to know why sign language could not be given as a foreign language for schools that have nursing programs or other programs that it may be beneficial to know.

Our school offers swahili as a foreign language, so why not sign language???????

My university offers it as part of the Audiology curriculum. I had to get the professor to let me in, but it was extremely rewarding. Ask about it! Maybe you can be the person that gets the word out that you want one.

Keep in mind though that it often does not count as a "foreign language" class, i had to take it as an elective, and still had to suffer through French 2.

Just a bit of advice... Most schools (high schools) require children to sign in SEE (Signing Exact English)... This is very strict and structured, and is NOT the way most deaf people communicate. Try finding a program that teaches ASL (American Sign Language). This will be more beneficial because this is how much of the deaf population communicates, and they will understand you better. Just advice!

I am also interested in foreign language-took 3 yrs in high school & don't want it to go to waste! My school has a course that is "Spanish for Healthcare Professionals" which sounds perfect to me, to learn what I need to know for everyday use, but it isn't in the regular schedule, only offered by interest-so I'm hoping to find some other nursing students who might be interested :o My area has a growing Bosnian population, who I believe speak German? But I have no desire to start on a brand new language!

Anyone seen any online classes?


Has 3 years experience.

I'm going to attend school in New Brunswick, an officially bilingual province. So there is a requirement for "French or another writing elective." I haven't taken French since junior high, and I was terrible at it then. I'm thinking about Spanish, or even Latin.

Originally posted by epg_pei

I haven't taken French since junior high, and I was terrible at it then. I'm thinking about Spanish, or even Latin.

Spanish is the easiest language you can take. You say it exactly as it's spelled, it has relatively few exceptions to the rules. I highly recommend it (it is much easier than French, in which you don't pronounce half the letters; it's almost as bad as English that way). Latin is probably the most difficult, even though you don't learn to speak it (there are different endings for verbs, nouns, adjectives and adverbs depending on part of speech, gender and number....this is VERY interesting if you like diagramming sentences. If you don't, it will make you crazy!).

And if you think languages are hard, be glad you're not learning English, which is one of the more difficult!

Spanish is a good language to learn. I am bilingual; but my ADN program has a class "Spanish for Nurses" and I am taking it this semester. Spanish is my second language, so I'm sure there are still things I can learn. I love languages and speak a little of many. One of my goals besides being an RN is to be TRILINGUAL

before I die. I also did learn some sign language too and it also is very important. There aren't enough people that know ASL.

I also feel that because many hospitals use other staff, from housekeeping, etc. that have little medical experience; patient care can be compromised.

I am taking Spanish. My step-mom works in one if the er's around here and she says that most places would love to have people that can speak Spanish. They have iterptors (ms) but they usually don't have a medical background so both is a big plus.



Specializes in LTC, ER, ICU,. Has 19 years experience.

whew! i could use a refresher course as it has been twenty-four years and two months since i took spanish i, ii, and iii in high school. no, it is not a requirement at the school i attend.

I would love to take a conversational spanish course !! I'm going to check into it !! Thanks ;)

In my area the need is both for French (creole) and Spanish. I know both French and Creole but I'm not familiar with Spanish a;though I took classes in High school. For some reason learning another language was not my thing back then. But there is a great need for Spanish speaking people in every profession I think I might have to consider it. I also use to volunteer in a hospital to interpret and translate for the doctors and patients using french and creole, actually it was a class but voluntering was part of it. I really enjoyed it. I also think that it might become an asset in the near future to know spanish...

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