April 8, 2009 THE VILLADOM TIMES III • Page 15 SCHOOLS & CAMPS Bilingual Hispanic nursing program graduates 15 students Ruben D. Fernandez, MA, RN, vice president of patient care services at Palisades Medical Center, had a dream. His goal was to help develop the state’s first nursing program that would help Spanish speaking people enter nursing careers. Fernandez collaborated with Thomas Eastwick, owner and president of Eastwick Education’s HoHoKus Hackensack School, to make that dream come true. This month, the school graduated the first bilingual Hispanic nursing class. The 15 graduates were honored at a pinning ceremony at the Glen Pointe Marriott. The affair, at which Fernandez was the guest speaker, was attended by Freeholder Tomas Padilla; HBC Scholarship Foundation of NJ President Hector Banegas; Palisades Medical Center Director of Education Rosemary Bauer, RN; and Hispanic Institute Executive Director Emilio Fandino. The program, designed for individuals who have an interest in the nursing profession, is 18 months and includes 600 hours of ESL in addition to the curriculum and training necessary for graduates to take the national Licensed Practical Nursing exam. The U.S. Census Bureau ranks Hudson County as having the tenth highest Spanish-speaking population in the nation with close to 40 percent in total. Even more importantly, a recent federal survey of registered nurses reported the following racial/ethnic breakdown figures: 88 percent white, five percent black, three percent Asian, and two percent Hispanic. In Northern New Jersey, less than three percent of all licensed nurses speak Spanish. Acknowledging the need for Spanish-speaking nurses, Fernandez proposed the bilingual track in June 2005, and Eastwick committed to the development of the Bilingual Hispanic Licensed Practical Nursing Program. Dr. Rafael Castilla, vice president of academic affairs, led a team of instructors and administrators who created an innovative curriculum that was approved by the New Jersey Board of Nursing and the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. The program started on July 30, 2007, and the first class completed the curriculum on Jan. 23, 2009. All instructors were bilingual. During the first nine months of the program, students had the choice to test in either English or Spanish. “This program represents a new model in nursing education and a truly innovative approach to issues that challenge healthcare and our communities,” said Fernandez. “It is our aspiration to provide a model for other healthcare organizations and communities to follow throughout the nation.” “Every statistic shows that there is a great demand for Spanish-speaking nurses” said Eastwick. “We’re proud to be the first school to develop a unique program to meet the growing need for the Hispanic community.” Although the program has an ESL component, Eastwick emphasized that a student must be able to communicate verbally in English. He added, “The program is designed to help those students from a Spanish-speaking household learn to better comprehend English so they can achieve higher grades on standardized testing especially the NCLEX® Examination.” The NCLEX® is one of two national nurse licensure examinations developed and administered by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing: the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses, and the National Council Licensure Examination for Practical Nurses. These two examinations are used by the Boards of Nursing to test entry-level nursing competence of candidates. A new class of students for the Hispanic Nursing Program begins this spring. Entry requirements include a written admissions exam and an interview with the appropriate personnel. 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