Nursing Focus: Hispanic Culture and Health

Dec 17, 2018

On the last day of class for the fall semester, Jackie Clippinger and Mary Beth Doyle sat back and let their students take charge of NURS 484, Hispanic Focus Elective. One after another, the nursing students presented group projects that all had one common theme: Health issues in Hispanic countries.

The class is part of the Hispanic Focus in Nursing program, which exposes upper-level nursing students to the cultural norms and values of Hispanic people, whose numbers are steadily rising in Cincinnati and other cities across the U.S. The projects are the culmination of a semester-long deep dive into Hispanic culture and the social and political issues that affect the health of Latin American populations.

“We have students present on different cultures and how that plays into their care as a nurse,” Doyle says.

Most nurses graduating today will encounter Hispanic patients who do not speak English. Xavier’s Hispanic Focus nursing graduates will not only be able to break through the language barrier by translating medical information for them, they’ll also be able to understand the cultural nuances and needs of patients and their families.

“The goal of the program is to present pictures of Hispanic populations to our students. Clients have different health disparities, cultural norms and values,” says Clippinger.

“Our seniors tell us about how when they were at a hospital, they had a Spanish-speaking patient and the difficulties that came up,” says Doyle. “It’s everywhere in Cincinnati.”

Indeed, from 2000-2012, the Hispanic population in the Cincinnati region grew by 69 percent, according to the Cincinnati USA Chamber of Commerce.

Xavier’s program has been in place for several years in the College of Nursing but is getting renewed interest since Clippinger and Doyle took over. There were nine students enrolled in the fall and another 10 have signed up for fall 2019.

Students, mostly juniors and seniors, complete 15 hours including a prerequisite nursing class, one Spanish language class, the Hispanic Focus class, and two additional electives related to Hispanic or Latin history or culture for five courses total. Students earn a certificate which, the professors say, boosts their resumés upon graduation.

“It’s a good thing, for our students will run into this population wherever they work,” Clippinger says.

It also benefits local Hispanics, something Clippinger and Doyle have experienced in their lengthy careers. Doyle has nearly 40 years of experience working in cardiac, medical surgical and geriatric units in many health-care facilities including the University of Cincinnati Medical Center’s nuclear medicine division. She joined the College of Nursing faculty at Xavier in 2013 and completed her master’s in 2015.

Clippinger came to Xavier in 2008 after working in rehabilitation, orthopedic home care and maternity for about 25 years. She also earned her master’s from Xavier in 2015 and formerly taught at Bethesda North Hospital.

Now instead of caring for patients, they prepare new nurses who will soon have patients of their own.

One of their favorite parts of the Hispanic Focus program is the students’ research projects. In addition to lectures, films, guest speakers and volunteering at local Hispanic organizations such as Su Casa and Santa Maria Community Center, the students each choose a topic to research from different Hispanic-language countries.

“We address cultural disparities and possible interventions to help the population,” Clippinger says.

Among the topics students have chosen are: Eating disorders and body image issues for women in Argentina; standing water and mosquitoes in Honduras; heart disease in Columbia; and cancer from pesticides on sugar plantations in Nicaragua.

“We hope to open their eyes to other cultural exposures outside their own,” Doyle says.

 Feature Image: Jackie Clippinger, left, and Mary Beth Doyle teach the Hispanic Focus in Nursing program.