Learning the terms: Immigrants study medical language so they can pursue careers in healthcare

Student Furahini Kusimwa reviews answers during a test Wednesday during a CNA and medical terminology class at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids. Students at Kirkwood Community College use the McAuley Center program to work on their medical terminology to become certified nurses or nursing assistants. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Students Marie Joseph (left) and Asma Showgar work together on a medical terminology quiz Wednesday in a certified nursing assistant class at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Amanda Weeks, education development coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids, reviews answers to a test with her students during a certified nursing assistant and medical terminology class on Wednesdays at the center. The class allows Kirkwood Community College students to work on these skills in small groups. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Student Asma Showgar goes through a medical terminology quiz on her phone during a Wednesday class at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids. Showgar attended medical school in Sudan and worked in a hospital for three years before immigrating. She is currently pursuing a nursing degree. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Kirkwood Community College students take a medical terminology test during a Wednesday class at the Catherine McAuley Center. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Student Merline Cadet asks Amanda Weeks, Education Development Coordinator at the Catherine McAuley Center, a question about a medical term during a Wednesday class at the center. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

Louise Milolo marks her medical terminology test during a Wednesday class at the Catherine McAuley Center in Cedar Rapids. (Savannah Blake/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS – Merline Cadet studies to become a certified practical nurse – while learning English – and fulfills a decades-long dream still inspired by the nurses and doctors who held her hand when her mother died three years ago .

Cadet, who immigrated to the United States 20 years ago from Haiti, came to the Catherine McAuley Center to shop in her pantry when she noticed people walking around with backpacks.

So she inquired about classes offered at the center — a nonprofit serving immigrants, refugees, and women in crisis in Cedar Rapids — and discovered another education program to help immigrants like her. to become a Certified Nursing Assistant, or CNA.

The free program begins with students taking the Basic Health Care Communication course offered at Catherine McAuley for those who need to learn additional English skills before taking classes at Kirkwood Community College.

The youngest left her manufacturing job in Tama to attend class every morning. She now works midnight to 7 a.m. at Walmart, gets her kids ready for the day, and then comes to class.

“In life, you have to fight for what you want,” Cadet said. “There’s no way you won’t,” with help from the Catherine McAuley Center.

The nurses and doctors who held her hand as her mother died of a stroke, she said, gave her “courage” and “told her, from A to Z”, what happening despite the language barrier.

“For what they have done for me and for my mother, I have to pursue my dream,” Cadet said.

Need lessons

The first class in basic healthcare communication was launched just over a year ago after Kirkwood leaders noticed that students in their English language learning program were struggling in regular college classes, said Amanda Weeks, education development coordinator for Catherine McAuley.

To be eligible for the Basic Healthcare Communication course, students must first pass an English reading and listening test. (English for Learners classes are offered at the center and in Kirkwood.)

The 10-week healthcare communication course focuses on specific English words, phrases or idioms, such as “get your foot in the door” – “if you’re not a native English speaker, you you might take it at face value,” Weeks said.

Eleven students are currently enrolled in the Catherine McAuley Healthcare Communication course, which is offered twice a year. After that, students can take a six-week course — Foundations of Healthcare — through Kirkwood, where they learn interview skills, how to write a resume and clinical skills, Weeks said.

The center partners with Kirkwood Pathways for Academic Career Education and Employment – ​​KPACE – which helps students access education and resources to develop skills that can lead to jobs in high-demand sectors such as healthcare health.

KPACE offers – and pays for – short-term certification training that may only take a few weeks. It also offers a bi-weekly stipend for those pursuing one- or two-year diploma and degree programs.

Already trained

Some students dream of a medical career, while others already hold medical degrees from other countries.

“Some students get into the health field because they don’t want to work in a factory anymore,” Weeks said. “Some have been doctors and nurses, but that is not transmitted here. People who used to work in hospitals and now work at Whirlpool assembling refrigerators. »

Asma Showgar, for example, attended medical school in Sudan and worked in a hospital there for three years. She arrived in the United States five months ago and currently works at General Mills.

Showgar, whose mother tongue is Arabic, is working towards a nursing license.

Other students, like Caroline Léger from Haiti, have always dreamed of becoming a nurse.

“In my country, if you don’t have money, you can’t do anything,” said Léger, who speaks Haitian Creole, French and English.

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