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NMC Spanish Minor Students Break Down Language Barriers

Posted by Marc Costanzo Friday, Jul. 17, 2015

A nurse taking a man's blood pressureOne of the most vital parts of being a nurse is communication, something we strive to emphasize here at Nebraska Methodist College.

The technical aspects of healthcare are certainly important, but some people are astonished to learn that this is only part of what we teach at the college. We make sure our graduating students are equipped to connect with patients on a personal level.

Nurses interact with people from all different demographics and backgrounds, so learning the proper communication skills proves essential, especially if a nurse is trying to explain a care plan or learn a patient’s medical history.

That’s what brings us to today’s blog topic: the Spanish minor at NMC. What some people see as a language barrier, we see as an opportunity. A growing Latino population across the country and in the Omaha metro means that our students can make a big difference in somebody’s life simply by taking the time to learn the language a patient is most comfortable with.

Reaching Out to the Community

In order to attain the Spanish minor at NMC, students don’t just learn language; they’re given the opportunity to experience Hispanic culture. Throughout the summer, students have been volunteering their time at events across Omaha, providing health screenings and healthcare education in a primarily Spanish-speaking environment.

Nora Pomerenke is one such student. After taking an introductory Spanish course earlier in her college career, Nora sought to improve her own nursing acumen by becoming more immersed in the culture.

“I wanted to be able to communicate with as many patients as possible without a language barrier,” said Nora.

Nora and the other students involved in the program have been given the chance to share their knowledge at such places as the Mexican Consulate’s Health Window, the Intercultural Senior Center, and the Douglas County Health Department’s Mujeres Activas program.

“The Intercultural Senior Center has been my favorite event in the community so far, because they are the kindest people and they appreciate our actions so much,” she said.  “The different interactions with all people there are wonderful.”

Nora_ISC2-249080-editedLearning through Teaching

Students like Nora have relished the challenge of sharing their own education in a second language. She explained how rewarding it is to be able to simply take a person’s blood pressure when that individual has never been able to get that test done before.

Her Spanish instruction has allowed her to communicate with her patients, teaching them about things like nutrition and education. That kind of hands-on attention shouldn’t be a rarity in the healthcare field, regardless of what language the patient speaks.

While communicating in a second language is certainly daunting the first few times they try it, our nursing students get to experience what it’s like to overcome barriers. Making a patient feel at ease is what every nurse must strive for, and sometimes that means being able to speak fluently in an individual’s native tongue.

Students are also given the opportunity to educate children, particularly with the Mujeres Activas program. While mothers are busy receiving health screenings, their kids get entertaining lessons about biology and an assortment of health concepts from our own students, who get to put what they’ve learned in class to the test.

Such lessons typically find students alternating between Spanish and English to get their points across to the children, most of whom are bilingual (and eager to help our students out when the right word seems just out of reach).


The Spanish for Healthcare Professionals minor option at NMC allows our students to get a feel for the difference they can make in the community at large. To be able to communicate seamlessly with people from a mix of different cultures isn’t just a skill; it’s a way to learn more about yourself and the world around you.

Topics: nurse education, community outreach, Professional Development

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