By: Alisa Ochoa
In late winter of my second semester at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing, I got a message from Ximena Ibarra that she needed to speak to me about something important and to meet her for cafecito. When I arrived she said, “what I am about to say may make me sound loca.” But she shared it with me anyway because I am her amiga and she knew I felt the same way.
That afternoon we spoke of how passionate we are about the health and wellbeing of the Latinx community, how proud we are to be Latina and studying at the number one school of nursing in the country, yet how devastated we are that there are very few Hispanics and Latinos here and in nursing period.
Even worse, in health care there is a lack of awareness and understanding of Latinx immigrants, their culture, and their language, which negatively impacts the quality of care Hispanics and Latinx people receive. People who are Latinx or Hispanic make up around 20% of the population but less than 7% of American RNs; that disparity can impact our community for generations to come.
At the end of our conversation we felt empowered to be at Johns Hopkins yet discouraged because with such a small Latinx community we didn’t know who would support us. But we remembered the voices of our mothers saying “dream big mijas.” The communities we left behind would want us to take our seat at the table to represent our cultura and lengua.
Ximena Ibarra, Glendys Rodriguez, Lizbeth Lopez, Carlos Arias, and I founded the LatinX Advocacy Group. It serve three purposes. First, it shows other Latinx nurses that there is a place for them at the Johns Hopkins School of Nursing. We want other Latinx nurses to know that they deserve to be here and we want to show them how much we need more Hispanic nurses in the community. Second, the LatinX Advocacy Group serves our Hispanic and Latinx community here in Baltimore through advocacy and by promoting cultural competency. Finally, it is a communidad of SON students who are passionate about serving the Latinx community locally and globally; an environment where students can learn about the different Latinx cultures, traditions, and languages.
We strongly believe that to understand la lengua is to understand la cultura. Our mission statement reflects this; it states that we aim to promote advocacy and cultural competency to alleviate the struggles and challenges that the Latinx community faces in the health care system.
The outpouring of support and encouragement from the School of Nursing’s faculty and staff including Dr. Diana Baptiste, Dr. Carmen Alvarez, and Megan Barrett has truly made us feel like a familia. We were honored to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with our first LatinX Advocacy Group event, a Latinx food expo that raised money for Puerto Rico Stands (an aid organization that supports recovery from hurricane Maria).
The LatinX Advocacy Group aims to bring awareness to challenges that Hispanics and Latinx people face. Our group aims to empower health care providers to advocate for people facing cultural and language differences, challenges with immigration status, and other factors that create barriers to health care.
Hispanic Heritage Month:
Alisa Ochoa is currently an MSN (Entry into Nursing) student with an interest in Cardiac Critical Care, Latino Immigrant health and Global Health. She is a co-founder of the Latinx Advocacy Group, student leader of the Student Nurse’s Association, and a research assistant for Diversity, Equity and Inclusion under Dr. Gloria Ramsey. She intends to further her education by pursuing a DNP Family Primary Care NP.