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4 Reasons to Add a Foreign Language to Your Nursing Transcript

4 Reasons to Add a Foreign Language to Your Nursing Transcript

Hollis Forster, RNC-NP

It seems to take a long time to get into a nursing program. Some people wait several years. They have completed all the pre-requisites, and the basics, what can they do while waiting? What can they do that will add to their value as a nursing professional?

Having knowledge of a foreign language will add value to your resume and breadth to your experience.

Sometimes it’s clear which language you should learn and how it can help you (a nurse in Southern California should know Spanish). Sometimes it is less clear. For instance, who are the major immigrant populations in Ohio or other states (or areas of states). In NYC, there are so many diverse communities you will probably need to look at the specific hospital or health care system where you would like to work to determine which language would benefit your knowledge base the most.

So, my first suggestion, learn a foreign language. And my second suggestion is to learn one that will serve you well in the geographic/societal area in which you wish to practice. Then, look for these benefits:

1. An increase in your chances of getting a job and having job flexibility. As a case in point, let me share a little story. I have 25 years experience as a women’s health care nurse practitioner. I have continued to increase my skills throughout my career and have done well. However, recently I attempted to look at jobs within a local health system and although I have a limited knowledge of the local most common foreign language I was turned away at “square one” because I was not fluent in this language.

The value of knowing a foreign language and being able to add it to your resume is huge for getting a job and being able to move within your profession. The other reasons for considering this course of study include the following:

2. Many jobs pay extra for knowing a foreign language. In order to attract bilingual staff, health care systems will offer financial incentives to applicants if they speak a language valuable to the community. The incentive can come as an hourly adjustment, a bonus or increased flexibility in terms of hours on job placement.

3. The next benefit of knowing a foreign language is in planning where your career may be able to take you (literally!). With the knowledge of another language, the possibility of foreign travel, volunteering as a nurse abroad, doing international health care work can open a whole new career track, or even just an interesting family, volunteer vacation opportunity.

4. The last benefit is that knowing a foreign language, being exposed to a foreign culture can expand your value as a nurse by helping you to be able to understand more completely cultural values, the need for the true development of health care literacy and the ultimate nursing value, which is to allow each of your patient’s respect and dignity.


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