Fronteras: New St. Edward’s University Program Trains Bilingual Students to Fill Language Gap in Healthcare

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Language barriers present obstacles for Latin American communities across the United States, especially for immigrant communities.

A lack of bilingual healthcare professionals in healthcare facilities can make it difficult for Spanish-speaking patients to speak. Even if physicians and counselors are bilingual, this does not guarantee that they have the necessary vocabulary or training to communicate effectively with their patients.

A new certificate program at St. Edward’s University in Austin is one of many across Texas that aims to close this gap.

Starting this fall, the university will offer an Advanced Spanish Certificate Program for Health and Helping Professions.

The course will prepare bilingual or advanced second language students with the training they need to provide effective processing with technical vocabulary and cultural knowledge.

Georgia Seminetassociate professor of Spanish at St. Edward’s University, is among the staff who led the effort to create the program.

“Studies have shown that sometimes bilingual students working in the field… don’t have the confidence to explain things or perform their tasks in Spanish,” she said. “We hope the certificate can accommodate students who are already bilingual and provide them with training in Spanish that fills the gaps.

Cristina ThornelAssistant Professor in the Department of Counseling at St. Edward’s University and designer of the first introduction to Advice in Spanish lessonsalso stressed the importance of the program.

“If someone is dealing with a traumatic event in therapy that happened in Spanish, but they’re using their second language, something is lost,” she said. “It’s when you work with a bilingual client and a bilingual advisor [helps].”

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