The Parkland College Blog

Language Class to Transition Immigrants into Health Careers

New ECNA students to grasp nuances in patient symptom descriptions, medical language

Patients often say they have to go to the toilet using terms a nonnative English-speaking caregiver might not recognize. But locally, one Parkland College professor is helping new English learners grasp the nuances of medical language in a free class debuting this fall.
 
"An 85-year-old may say one thing for urination; a five-year-old will say another," explained Christina Havenland, who leads the new English for Certified Nursing Assistants class being offered through Parkland's Adult Education department. "A tough old military vet may use another, less polite, word, while a church secretary may have yet another very euphemistic word! An immigrant CNA needs to know the whole range of language they would encounter on the job."
 
Language comprehension is even more crucial when discussing symptoms, added Havenland, a Humanities associate professor who teaches reading. For example, nearly 80 phrases can be used to describe pain, phrases one might find on the McGill University Pain Questionnaire.
 
"If a patient says she feels a 'nagging tenderness,' a medical professional without sufficient language training could misunderstand either the relatively rare word "nagging," or could misunderstand "tenderness" as being a positive emotion instead of a type of physical soreness," she said.
 
Funded through a federal English language education grant and the Illinois Community College Board, the ECNA course has been designed to smooth the path for English language learners desiring to enter the healthcare profession. Enrollees receive 96 hours of training in the culture and language skills they need for success in Parkland's regular Certified Nursing Assistant course. Once they attain their industry-recognized credential, students can then work in the community as a CNA while pursuing other careers.
 
Havenland said the program also helps combat the nationwide shortage of certified nursing assistants by allowing immigrants to more quickly practice medical skills they may already have acquired in their home countries.
 
"Some of these adult learners are already professionals with degrees and credentials in their native countries," she said. "Completing the regular CNA course serves as an entry point for them to pursue more advanced nursing credentials offered by Parkland, such as our Licensed Practical Nursing (LPN) and Registered Nursing (RN) degrees."
 
For more information on the ECNA program, contact Parkland College Adult Education at 217/351-2580.
 
In Fiscal Year 2019 (FY '19), approximately 40% ($161,595) of the total cost of the Parkland College Adult Education and Family Literacy Program is provided through federal funds under Title II of the Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act.

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