Experts warn that California’s Spanish-only nursing certification may result in patient deaths

The California Assembly has unanimously passed a bill that permits nursing assistants to take certification exams in Spanish only. This decision has raised concerns among doctors, nurses, and patients who do not speak Spanish, as the inability to communicate with nursing assistants may result in potential harm, injuries, or even fatalities.

AB 2131 aims to provide the opportunity for nurse assistant certification examinations to be taken in Spanish. Assemblymember Avelino Valencia, D-Anaheim, who authored the bill, emphasizes that this legislation is crucial in ensuring that caregivers mirror the communities they serve. By allowing a diverse nursing workforce to emerge, the bill seeks to address the needs of all patients and create a healthcare system that is more representative of our population.

According to an analysis conducted by the Assembly, it was revealed that the bill can effectively cater to the “need for cultural competency in the workforce” by considering the fact that 28.1% (4,055,000) of the Latino population in California are individuals with limited English proficiency. Additionally, the analysis highlighted that CNAs play a crucial role in patient outcomes as they are responsible for providing most of the hands-on care in hospitals, continuing care retirement communities, nursing homes, and assisted living facilities.

Health experts are concerned that eliminating the requirement for basic English proficiency for CNAs in healthcare could potentially result in patient deaths.

According to Sally Pipes, President of the Pacific Research Institute, the proposed bill has the potential to endanger the lives of patients due to potential communication errors. She argues that just like air traffic controllers who rely on English as the international language, nursing assistants should also be proficient in English to prevent costly mistakes that could jeopardize patient safety.

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Nationally, there is a significant shortage of Certified Nursing Assistants (CNAs), resulting in skilled nursing facilities experiencing a 14% workforce decrease since February 2020. As a result, over 60% of nursing homes across the country have been forced to restrict new patient admissions. This situation has led to a dilemma where patients with more complex care requirements that cannot be met at home or in lower-intensity facilities end up occupying expensive and scarce hospital beds.

By 2030, it is projected that a quarter of Californians will be 60 years or older. This demographic shift indicates a growing need for nurses and caregivers to cater to the increasing number of elderly individuals in the state. Interestingly, California currently faces the highest unemployment rate in the nation. However, the healthcare sector is poised to become a prominent and appealing employment industry with the implementation of a new minimum wage of $25 for healthcare workers.

The Service Employees International Union, the sponsor of AB 2131, is expected to continue growing in power and influence. With most industries relocating, healthcare and government sectors are emerging as the primary sources of new job opportunities within the state.

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