Urgent need for Spanish-speaking, bicultural Latino nurses in Chicago, country

Instituto College grads being hired by top magnet hospitals like Northwestern, U of C

ByMichelle Gallardo and Blanca Rios WLS logo
Tuesday, September 19, 2023
Instituto College aims to fight Latinx nursing shortage
A Chicago college which serves Little Village and Pilsen is helping fight the Latino nursing shortage happening across the country.

CHICAGO (WLS) -- It is no secret the country is in the middle of a severe nursing shortage that is only getting worse but if recruiting nurses is hard enough these days, recruiting Latino nurses is even harder.

The best way to find yourself is to lose yourself in service to others. and I think that's why we're here to become nurses," said Ramiro Garcia, a registered nurse and community liaison for Sanctuary Hospice Care.

It was just nine months ago that Garcia and Crystal Coria received their associate's degree in nursing from Instituto College which serves Pilsen and Little Village. Both were lucky enough to have their pick of full-filling jobs.

"One of the things they looked at was that I was bilingual. For that reason I got a lot of job offers," said Coria.

Before the pandemic, it would have been unthinkable for Coria to be recruited by the University of Chicago Medical Center with only a two-year degree. But circumstances have changed.

According to the American Nurses Association of Illinois, 52% of RN's are over the age of 55, with 27% planning to retire within five years.

"We're hitting a nursing shortage crisis," said Karina Ayala-Bermejo, CEO and President of the Instituto del Progreso Latino. "By 2025, we will have a deficit, a very disastrous gap of 15,395 nurses."

With fewer than 8,000 nurses graduating in Illinois each year, bridging the gap is becoming near impossible. Furthermore, in a city where nearly 30% of the population is Latino and only 6% of nurses are- bilingual, bicultural nurses like Coria and Garcia are at a premium.

We're hoping to generate as many bilingual, bi-cultural nurses as possible," said Ayala-Bermejo.

"Most of the patients we get are elderly, right, so they feel a lot more comfortable speaking Spanish and someone who understands their culture," said Garcia.

Enter the Instituto del Progreso Latino's Instituto College, where despite having a relatively new program, they boast a 100% completion rate, with all of their students going on to pass their certification exams to become entry-level nurses.

"There's no comparison to any of the nurses," said Coria. "I'm able to do my work compared to someone that went to another university or has a BSN. So I'm very grateful for that."

And while last December's cohort only included 10 graduates, Instituto is trying to boost those numbers by offering nearly all of their applicant either full or partial scholarships.

"Having nothing, coming here and they're like, OK. We have this education and it's for free. Are you ready? And I said I was," said Coria.

Those interested in the Instituto College's nursing program can attend an open house scheduled for October 5. The deadline to apply for the Spring Semester is October 31.