Leadership is a passion and a duty for Arilma St.Clair RN, MSN, the National Association of Hispanic Nurses District of Columbia (NAHNDC) Chapter President, and Occupational Health Nurse and Wellness Coordinator at Organization of American States in Washington, DC.
It’s a challenge to bring more Hispanics into nursing. One change that promises to improve recruitment and retention is when today’s Hispanic nurses catapult into leadership positions as adminstrators or professors or board members. We asked St.Clair for her views — as a nurse, and also head of NAHNDC — on the current state of Latino nursing and leadership.
Q: What are the joys and sorrows for you, as a Latina, of caring for Hispanic patients?
A: The joys of caring for Hispanic patients include the rewarding task of ensuring that cultural and linguistics interventions are implemented to meet client needs for equitable high quality of care standards.
Q: Can you give us an example of cultural and linguistic issues?
A: Often patients who have poor or no domain of the English language are the subject of disparities and this is not isolated to the Hispanic clients, but rather to the millions of immigrants (documented and undocumented) from Latin America, Asia, Africa, and Europe.
The sorrows often involve the limitation of resources for the underserved — from eligibility-criteria limited to legal residents, to limited healthcare funding or coverage for the client with mental conditions.
Q: Working in Washington, DC, you have a front row view of the political and social battles around healthcare. What do you see for the future of Hispanic nursing?
A: I anticipate the future of the Hispanic nurse to be a bright one, yet full of similar struggles. When I look back in history at some of the events that took place in the 60’s and 70’s involving the civil rights movement, I can see some similarities with the Affordable Care Act implementation (ACA).
The challenge is to make our leaders recognize and address with high priority the need for our nation to implement healthcare coverage opportunities for all Americans.
Finally, I anticipate the role of the Hispanic nurse in advocacy to be greater than ever. As a member and leader of the NAHNDC, I am held to higher degree of expectations (by membership, colleagues and community). Like most nurses, the Hispanic nurse will wear all hats, and more often the leadership one.
Q: What does Hispanic Heritage Month mean to you?
A: Personally, Hispanic Heritage Month is a period of time for self reflection as a self- identified Hispanic/Latina nurse. It’s a time to remember and celebrate the contributions those Hispanic leaders have made to make it possible for me to be considered (by most) as an American nursing professional.
It is with some sadness I do recognize that I must continue to confront intolerance, discrimination and even racists tendencies in the work place.
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