Being admitted to the hospital is not something most of us look forward to. Add in the fact you don’t speak the same language as your doctor and nurses, and a stressful experience can become traumatic.
So hearing “Soy Jen, su enfermera. ¿Cómo te sientes hoy?” (translation: “I am Jen, your nurse. How are you feeling today?”) would certainly bring a sigh of relief. It’s a pronouncement Jennifer Boll ’14 expects to make often in her future career.
In addition to her nursing major, Boll is also pursuing a Bachelor of Arts in Hispanic Studies. “I took a lot of Spanish in high school, and it’s just something I have always enjoyed,” she says. “And in this day and age, speaking Spanish is so important for health-care professionals.” According to Census Bureau data, Hispanics are the largest and fastest-growing minority in the United States, and IWU nursing graduates frequently find themselves in areas where Spanish is the primary language of their patients.
The School of Nursing now offers several opportunities for its students to learn how to provide “culturally competent care,” including a formal minor in Hispanic Studies to complement the Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. This option was a big selling point for Boll as she considered enrolling at Illinois Wesleyan.
Boll anticipated utilizing her Spanish skills in Chicago, where Hispanics comprise 30 percent of the population. What has surprised her, however, was learning about the growing need for bilingual nurses in central Illinois.
For the course “Medical Spanish and Cultural Competency for Health Care,” a requirement for the Hispanic Studies minor, Boll’s fieldwork at the Community Health Care Clinic in Normal involved helping nurses translate questions and directives to the Hispanic patients who compose about a third of those seen at the clinic.
“I didn’t think I would have these kinds of experiences in this area of the state,” says Boll. “There is such a need in the community (for Spanish-speaking health-care professionals), and it’s great that, as students, we can help.”
In her clinical experience at one local hospital, Boll recalled a patient who had been in the U.S. only two weeks when his uncontrolled diabetes necessitated the amputation of two toes.
“A large part of our education is not just diagnosis and care, but learning how as health-care professionals we can help people take care of themselves to avoid issues like this,” says Boll. “It is heartbreaking for me to see a patient suffering from illnesses and complications from conditions that could have been avoided with education on preventative care.”
Speaking the same language as the patient can be an essential component in effective care. “Hospitals do a great job with technology that is available for translation, but to me, it’s nothing like having a person to communicate that message personally.” Boll says she has been fortunate to have many opportunities to develop her Spanish-language skills through Illinois Wesleyan, including a semester-long study-abroad program in Barcelona, Spain, her sophomore year.
A native of Wheaton, Ill., Boll was drawn to medicine as a high school student but wanted to follow a different path than her older sister, a physician. She enrolled as a business major at Indiana University but realized business was not her calling and began job-shadowing nurses in Indiana. “I loved the nurse’s role in direct patient care.”
A visit to Illinois Wesleyan and its School of Nursing confirmed her decision to transfer. “I knew from the first meeting it was going to be a great place for me,” says Boll, “and it has been.” Of special appeal for Boll was the program’s Hispanic Studies minor, which she later expanded to a dual degree.
She has found ways to make a difference on campus. Boll and other nursing students established the first Dance Marathon at Illinois Wesleyan, one of many events across the nation to raise money for Children’s Miracle Network Hospitals. At IWU, students raised more than $12,000 for the Children’s Hospital of Illinois in Peoria. Boll will serve as president of the Dance Marathon for the 2013-14 academic year.
Recently inducted into Sigma Theta Tau International Honor Society of Nursing, Boll also works as a student laboratory assistant in the school’s Nursing Interventions Lab. Student assistants help organize and maintain the lab, which serves as a teaching and learning resource for sophomore and junior-year nursing students.
This summer Boll took another career step as a student nurse assistant in the pediatric hematology/oncology unit at Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago. Boll knows she has a special opportunity to work alongside an RN and learn firsthand how a professional implements a plan of care over a 12-hour period.
After graduation, Boll hopes to continue her education, becoming a nurse practitioner or perhaps an educator. “The nursing faculty definitely push us to pursue graduate school,” she says. “I admire and respect so many of my nursing professors that I think it would be a really cool experience to one day come back and teach nursing myself.”