Thursday, April 5, 2007

The End of Nursing as We Know It

Posted By on Thu, Apr 5, 2007 at 4:23 PM

A woman called me a few days ago. Without introducing herself, she asked if I had a number for contacting the Minutemen, as if I’m directory assistance or something. It’s no big deal, though, so I did a quick Google search and told her the Minuteman Project has a Web page with that information. She wanted to know if they shoot illegal immigrants, and I replied, no, I didn’t think that was a normal part of their operations.

Then she asked for the names of politicians down our way. It was a vague question, so I sought clarification on whether she wanted state or federal politicians. Eventually, I told her Gabrielle Giffords’ 8th Congressional District covers a lot of the border area.

Finally, we got to the apparent point of the woman’s call. She asked, “Did you know there are community colleges where you have to know Spanish to be admitted?” She said she was a recent transplant from Illinois, where she had worked as a nurse for some 30 years; in Arizona, however, where I gathered standards are stricter, she was only qualified to change bedpans.

I told her I found the Spanish-language requirement in the general terms she described as “extremely hard to believe,” and that’s when she started venting her frustrations at me. She insisted I call South Mountain Community College and find out for myself. While she was railing against the indignity of having to speak Spanish, I went to the college’s Web page to find out more.

After a cursory examination of the site, I came to the conclusion that SMCC has a bilingual nursing program. That’s the specific focus of the curriculum, and I told her that. I suggested that she look for another community college that has a regular nursing program. But the woman wasn’t having it: She wanted to go to SMCC, because it’s right down the street.

“Do they receive public money? Are they a public institution?” she demanded.

“I don’t know what they receive,” I said. “I just found out about the college. What does that have to do with a bilingual nursing program, anyway?”

The woman became increasingly strident. She kept saying all the things you’d come to expect: This is America. We speak English in America. The only language anyone should use is English. I told her I thought it was reasonable to have a bilingual nursing program in a state bordering Mexico with a sizeable Spanish-speaking population. It’s a matter of public health.

We ended our conversation after she asked me if I was 30 yet. I told her that was none of her business, and I wasn’t going to give her my Social Security number, either. She predicted that 15 or 20 years from now, ostensibly after the America I know and love has been destroyed, I will look back on this call and remember.

It was really interesting to me that this recent transplant from Illinois had already made a mental connection between the Minuteman Project (and illegal immigration) and a bilingual nursing program, as if hordes of Latinos are braving the desert to attend South Mountain Community College.

There are plenty of issues relating to illegal immigration that people should be concerned about; the language they use at some community-college nursing program isn't one of them.

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