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Leading with Spanish: Bilingual Social Workers Help Patients Navigate Daily Life


When asked which program at the Charlotte Hungerford Hospital’s Center for Youth and Families has made her most proud, Omayra Rodriguez enthusiastically responds with Nuestra Comunidad. The program, based in Torrington, Connecticut, offers therapeutic and counseling services to the local Spanish-speaking community. It is part of a growing group of social work organizations opening their doors to different language communities across the nation.

“It has been a gift to be able to speak with people and offer these services and help them negotiate systems, acculturation, assimilation and all these fancy words that just equate to day-to-day struggles,” says Rodriguez.

The field of social work is vitally important to vulnerable populations in the United States many of whom have limited English proficiency. As these populations increase, bilingual programs allow them to feel more comfortable in their local environment and help them to navigate everyday life. As Rodriguez puts it:

“I think simply that they can do this in their language is enormous.”

Rodriguez explains that beyond just being bilingual, being bicultural as well (or having experience with the communities’ customs) is an incredible asset for incoming professionals to the field of social work:

“It’s not just about even the languagewhich is an enormous piece in and of itselfbut the dialects, the food, the family values, customs, holiday traditions…all of those things that can be translated not just by knowing the words, but by having lived it.

Nuestra Comunidad is just one example of programs popping up all over the country that place special emphasis on connecting through language.

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