Pandemic exposes growing need for more Hispanic nurses in New Jersey

There is a growing need for more Hispanic nurses in the Garden State- a need that has been exposed by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Sol Muniz says that she always wanted to be a nurse. She is originally from Puerto Rico and moved to New Jersey a few years ago. She says that her experience as a trauma nurse in Puerto Rico has given her the experience needed to work in the emergency room at Jersey City Medical Center.
“Whatever I used to survive the first part of this pandemic, I learned from being from the islands, not necessarily from here and being able to relate to those who had come to the United States,” she says.
Almost 20% of the population of the United States identifies as Hispanic or Latino. But that population is reflected in less than 4% of nurses.
“We are not mirroring our population and so that puts them at a distinct disadvantage,” says Gina Miranda Diaz, of the National Association of Hispanic Nurses.
Diaz is part of the New Jersey chapter of the organization, which helps to recruit Hispanic and Latino nurses and educates the community on health and wellness.
“One of the No. 1 reasons why Hispanic Latinos have received such disparate care with lack of language accommodation – they don’t understand English and so that places them at a distinct disadvantage,” Diaz says.
Diaz says that another issue is that a large percentage of the Hispanic community is exposed to COVID-19.
“Only 16% of Latinos can work remotely. So, you have 84% of Latinos, many essential workers, who had to work side by side because of the nature of their work and are at risk for not only getting COVID, but spreading it among their family members,” she says.
Diaz also says that the public announcements made about the virus to the public did not target minority communities.
“We are here representing the Hispanic population. But this is in general for all minorities - in their correct language and their correct dialect, so they could really understand what is the accurate way to handle things,” Diaz says.
Muniz, meanwhile, says that she will continue to use what she has learned as a nurse to help her patients navigate around the virus.