English as a second language health care jobsIn 2010, there were over 25 million “Limited English Proficient’ (LEP) individuals in the United States.

And the numbers are growing leaps and bounds every year, especially in California, Texas and New York.  In fact, a report from the Migration Policy Institute highlights the states with the highest proportion of LEP individuals -California, Texas, New York, Florida, Illinois and New Jersey. Each have a million or more LEP individuals.

Therefore, knowing a second language can pay off more than you think.  It is a definite perk in the healthcare field, and in economic downturns, it can be the difference between having a job and not having a job.  In fact, many facilities pay extra to staff that know a foreign language that is valuable to the community.

With so much of the population being unable to communicate complicated concepts effectively, many medical facilities search continuously for multilingual personnel. While translators and volunteers from the community do work in hospitals, knowing another language can help you connect with both patients and other staff members. It’s especially useful in emergencies.  

However, what language you know can sometimes be just as important as knowing “a” language.  As the LEP population has grown, so has its linguistic diversity.  In the same study by the Migration Policy Institute, Spanish (not surprisingly) was listed as the most common language spoken by LEP individuals. in 2010, other top languages included Chinese, Vietnamese, Korean, Tagalog, Russian, French Creole, Arabic, Portuguese and a variety of African languages.

The decision to learn another language is a personal one, but it should be based on a certain level of practicality.  Try to learn one that will serve you well in the geographic/societal area in which you wish to practice. Sometimes it’s clear which language you should learn. For example, a nurse Southern California or Texas should know Spanish. Sometimes it is less clear. For instance, Spanish is a good language for those who live in Southern California, unless you live in northern Orange County which has a large Vietnamese population.  Do some investigation.  You might be surprised at the results.

Did you know that Spanish, Vietnamese, Chinese, Arabic or Urdu are the top five languages spoken in Houston?

In NYC, almost half the residents do not speak English at home, but there are so many diverse communities you will probably need to look at the specific hospital or health care system where you would like to work to determine which language would benefit you the most.

The ultimate goal in knowing a foreign language is to help you understand more completely the needs and feelings of your patients.  If you have ever been sick while on vacation in a foreign country, you know what a scary and frustrating experience it can be.

When you are ready to explore your career options, let Snelling help you find your best-fit job….one that will let you use your skills to their greatest benefit.

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