It was over dinner with their Spanish for Healthcare Professionals course professor Michelet McLean and several fellow Latinx students that the idea again popped into nursing students Ana Aguirre’s and Annalisa Cintron’s heads.
“There are a lot more people like me here than I’d realized.”Latinx Nursing Student Union co-founder Annalisa Cintron, BSN Class of 2025
They’d just discussed how bilingual student clinicians, especially those that spoke Spanish, were sometimes asked to provide translation by non-English-speaking patients and family members as well as physicians and nurses at the bedside. McLean, a native Spanish speaker originally from Nicaragua, affirmed to the nursing students not only the inappropriateness of such requests but also offered a firm, dignified, and unapologetic way to say “no” if they were ever asked to interpret.
And while it’s natural to want to help in such situations, the legal and ethical ramifications of informal translating are not only serious, Cintron said, they also “take advantage of what we can do and take your education right out of your hands.”
“For bilingual nursing students, it’s a reality,” said Aguirre. “We need to learn to speak up and say, ‘We’re here at the same level as other nursing students, and to learn, and we don’t want that opportunity to be taken away from us.’ We’re not going to take part in that power dynamic.”
That dinner and discussion proved seminal, and compelled Aguirre and Cintron—both Houston, Tx., natives and both Posse Scholars—to birth a new student group to champion the School’s burgeoning Latinx community, which now accounts for 14 percent of undergraduate student body and nine percent of all graduate and undergraduate students. A few weeks later, the Latinx Nursing Student Union (LNSU for short) was born.
14%Latinx students comprise 14% of undergraduates in 2022, and 9% of the overall student body (fall 22 census)
“A lot of us didn’t even know who was here,” Cintron said, of the initial interest meeting that brought together two dozen of the School of Nursing’s more than 70 Latinx students earlier this fall. “There are a lot more people like me here than I’d realized.”
The LNSU’s goal, Cintron said, is to “create forums to come together, celebrate Latinx voices, and build communities where especially undergraduate and graduate Latinx students can mingle.” Though the LNSU isn’t yet an official student group, having submitted paperwork to UVA’s central governing committees, their pending status hasn’t slowed them down. Their first meeting gave prof. McLean a platform to more broadly share lessons about bedside medical translation, and their second meeting—a multicultural Thanksgiving celebration slated for midday Nov. 16—will gather students over international fare. Cintron and Aguirre say LNSU also has plans to partner with local agencies like Sin Barerras to offer both financial and clinical support.
“Being in the nursing school, I’ve found so many people be so willing to learn, so willing to listen,” said Cintron. “The fact that our faculty want to hear what they can do to make our lives better really shows how invested everyone here really is.”
Even Cintron’s parents—who traveled to UVA for Family Weekend in late October—noted the effort. “My family told me that the community we built and have here is special, and that they know we’re being taken good care of,” said Cintron.
For more information about the Latinx Nursing Student Union, visit their Instagram page: @lnsu_uva. Professors Emma Mitchell and Michelet McLean are the group's faculty advisors.