Bilingual nurses ask for more help as Valley hospitals see surge of Spanish-speaking patients

Posted at 8:36 PM, Jul 13, 2020
and last updated 2020-07-14 00:08:14-04

PHOENIX — A Scottsdale nurse is seeing how the Valley’s Latino population is being hit hard by the coronavirus. She says that the number of Spanish-speaking patients is on the rise and there are not enough bilingual nurses to go around. It is now causing the hospital’s staff to quickly get burned out.

“A lot of our Latino population are more exposed to the virus because they're the ones working at the grocery stores; they’re the ones doing the maintenance; the ones cleaning inside the restaurants. They're the working people who are getting exposed to the virus,” said the nurse.

She asked to remain anonymous due to fear of losing her job for speaking out. This frontline worker spoke to the ABC15 Investigators as she urges the government to offer more resources to this population before it is too late.

“We are very overwhelmed right now. We're working more than we're supposed to. We are in need of nurses,” she explained.

Currently, this nurse is currently employed at Honor Health Scottsdale Shea Medical Center. She says, in general, the number of patients getting admitted with COVID-19 has climbed and the number of nurses decreased as they themselves get sick.

“They're being exposed to the virus, meaning there are less nurses to work on the floor,” she said.

Just this weekend, staff were notified of another nurse getting infected which, according to this nurse, makes a total of seven nurses out because of COVID-19.

Meanwhile, she says, those nurses that are still healthy are facing high levels of stress. It is taking a toll on them, both physically and emotionally.

“Sometimes we don't even eat the whole day.”

Now, this nurse is seeing a pattern she says she has never seen before in this hospital.

“We're seeing more Latinos in this hospital, more than usual.”

According to this nurse, many of these patients are being transferred from Yuma.

Right now, Yuma is the number one COVID-19 hotspot in Arizona and about 65% of the population is Hispanic.

“All my bilingual nurses, I give them ‘props,' cause we do have a lot more work than the other nurses because we do double the work,” stated this employee.

For this nurse, the warmth of the Latino patients is always rewarding, despite the challenges.

“They told me, 'Mija thank you so much for helping me out. I feel more comfortable. You speak the language. I understand what's going on.’”

However, she says they shouldn't be alone in the process.

“It's just tearing us apart in a way,” she explained.

ABC15’s reporting has shown Latinos in Arizona have less and sometimes no access to COVID-19 testing.

By the time they go to the hospital, it is almost too late.

“Because these people are already lacking the oxygen that they need – so that means we have to intubate them right away – something we aren't prepared for because we're not an intensive care unit,” stated this nurse.

“You can hear their frustration in their voice that they tried to do everything possible and they still got COVID-19,” said Licxie Flores, a Spanish medical interpreter in Phoenix.

Flores says she has been getting more calls from Valley hospitals requesting her services lately.

“There are some people that have simple questions that you would think that they will know, but they don't,” Flores said.

Flores has also noticed that information on COVID-19 in Spanish is not as accessible as it is in English.

“There's a lot of people that don't know how to read or write. Maybe if there was something available vocally or visually that they could hear, they might be more informed.”

For this Scottsdale nurse, she believes that is also another solution: make testing more accessible in underserved areas.

“We need to make more of these testing sites available. Maybe closer to the Latino population,” she explained.

This nurse also believes the government needs to step up.

“I just wish you could be there and see what we're going through.”

This nurse added that she wishes the leaders in our government could walk in her shoes for at least one day. She believes then they could feel what she feels when people die in front of the nurses. That, she says, is “feeling helpless.”