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Servicio en Español

Conversations with nurses often reveal service-oriented characteristics. This isn’t surprising. They chose to serve by pursuing a career in the nursing profession. Emily McKee, The Research Foundation scholarship recipient and Research College of Nursing student, is adding an element of service to her already compassionate personality. Emily aims to serve above and beyond traditional expectations. She is a senior nursing student and works as a nurse intern at Research Medical Center. In her “spare” time, Emily is a member of the sorority Gamma Phi Beta, the Spanish Honor Society and College Republicans. She works the night shift at Bath and Body Works and teaches Sunday School at her church. But that’s not all. Emily is also studying to be a Spanish-speaking nurse.

Learning a second language surfaced as an interest early in her life. She began taking Spanish lessons at age five, acquiring Spanish-learning DVDs to help the process. This helped set her apart from fellow nursing students who either don’t have second-language skills or are more interested in helping other demographics.

“I wasn’t drawn to serving kids or the elderly, like a lot of students. I chose to learn a language to serve a different group of people and fill a gap. I want to be a nurse that speaks Spanish and I think that will be just as sought after.”

Emily has been hard at work polishing her second-language skills by double majoring in nursing and Spanish. The challenge of pursuing two degrees has put her 15 credit hours behind her classmates, but she has a plan. She took 11 hours during the summer. On top of her regular class load, she is enrolled in an additional class this semester and is tacking on three more credit hours next semester to graduate on time. Even though it’s arduous, her plan has created a number of learning experiences.

The summer after her freshmen year, Emily traveled to Costa Rica for a month to study and become more familiar with the Spanish language. She attended classes five days a week and explored during the weekends. Her time spent in Costa Rica was a perfect opportunity to be surrounded by Spanish speakers and work out some kinks.

“I was at a restaurant trying to order a turkey wrap and ended up ordering a donkey with cheese. My Spanish buddies won’t ever let me forget that. But that’s what comes with learning a second language.”

During her sophomore year of nursing school, Emily was part of a group of students who translated for patients at Samuel U. Rodgers Health Center. Many conversations took the form of appointment reminders and follow ups, but the group of students was exposed to more of the language than just greetings and small talk.

“Story telling is a great part of Hispanic cultures. So those phone calls turned into more than just appointment reminders. We got to hear about patients’ families and learn more about their lives and situations.”

Emily was hired as a nurse intern at Research Medical Center her junior year and began assisting a nurse who speaks Spanish. She noticed the need for Spanish translators immediately as the Hispanic patient base continued to grow and the ability to care for those patients was hindered by the language barrier.

“Research Medical Center is blessed to have a few Spanish-speaking nurses, but if they aren’t on the floor we have to use the phone system to translate. Something that nurses can’t ever have enough of is time. Translations take time. I want to speak directly to patients, save time, energy and fear. If someone were speaking to me in my own language, I would feel much more confident that my concerns were being heard and I would feel better about my health care. I would feel like I was being taken care of.”

While learning through face-to-face interactions with patients, Emily is also taking steps to understand more about Hispanic culture through research. In her final Spanish class, she is partnering with the nursing program to study the relationship between Type 2 Diabetes and Mexican and Mexican-American populations. She hopes to discover why these patients are prone to being diagnosed and if they know they are at risk. Her research project will focus on patient education regarding Type 2 Diabetes at Research Medical Center and other HCA hospitals.

Well into her final year of nursing school, Emily is still searching for more opportunities to make Spanish her second language. She credits those who contributed to her scholarship for helping her come this far.

“I want to continue to serve my neighbors and learn to help people, especially in the Kansas City area where the Spanish speaking population is growing. Those who donated to my scholarship have pushed me and I want to keep the momentum going.”

And in the spirit of serving, through the Spanish language or otherwise, Emily said,

“I know one day I will do the same for another nursing student.”