Expanding Access to Care for Spanish-Speaking Patients

Since 1990, the number of U.S. residents aged 5 and older who report speaking Spanish at home has increased by more than 130 percent, from 17.3 million to 40 million.1 Unfortunately, the number of bilingual pharmacists has not kept pace with this increase, creating gaps in care for many patients who prefer to speak Spanish, especially when receiving health care services.

To help increase access to pharmacy services for these patients, CVS Health actively recruits bilingual pharmacists to fill roles in the largest Spanish-speaking communities across the U.S., including Southern California, Texas and South Florida. Now, a new pharmacy intern program seeks to help develop bilingual pharmacists, even if they did not grow up speaking Spanish at home.

An Immersive Experience

The CVS Health Spanish Immersion Internship provides future pharmacists the opportunity to work within a Spanish-speaking community to enhance their language proficiency, to learn about the Hispanic culture, and to gain clinical experience.

The inaugural group of 20 pharmacy student interns spent 10 weeks in summer 2017 shadowing pharmacists who are fluent in Spanish and participating in the care of Spanish-speaking patients with a variety of acute and chronic conditions. Many participants chose the internship because of an interest in relocating post-graduation to a market with a high concentration of Spanish-speaking patients.

Throughout the program, which was developed by CVS Health’s Professional and College Relations team, the focus remained on gaining an understanding of the Hispanic community, promoting medication adherence, improving health outcomes, and, of course, speaking Spanish at every opportunity:

  • Interns were provided instruction in Spanish medical terminology, and studied disease states that are prevalent in the Hispanic community.
  • Participating interns enhanced their documentation, communication, and medication counseling skills.
  • Interns explored cultural competencies such as familiarity with the over-the-counter products used within the Hispanic population, and understanding cultural barriers to health care.
  • Some interns also participated in local health fairs, where they met members of the community and spoke with them about their health needs.

Program interns received an enthusiastic welcome from patients and their CVS Health preceptors, and reported that their experiences were extremely positive. The interns started the program with basic to moderate Spanish fluency, and by the end said they felt much more confident speaking with patients in a second language. Comments from student participants included:

“It was the best professional experience of my life! Thank you for letting me participate!”

“My Spanish fluency improved and I feel like I can effectively communicate now with Spanish-speaking patients.”

The Spanish Immersion Internship is just one of the many pharmacy internships we offer to help future pharmacists grow personally and professionally. For more information about pharmacy internships at CVS Health, visit our Pharmacy Careers page.

1 https://www.census.gov/content/dam/Census/newsroom/facts-for-features/2016/cb16-ff16.pdf