Languages Spoken by California’s Health Workforce

In 2023, over 43 percent of California’s Health Workforce spoke a language other than English well enough to provide care.

Why are the languages spoken by the Health Workforce important?

The ability to communicate in the same language is critical for a successful relationship between patients and their healthcare providers. Effective communication, even through an interpreter, is essential for reducing misdiagnoses and complications. Patient safety and quality of care increase when health care providers and their patients speak the same language. By understanding the languages spoken by our health workforce and our population, we can better identify areas of over and under representation. To make this comparison, US Census Bureau language groupings were used to directly compare California’s Health Workforce to its population.

Key Findings

  • Over 40 different languages are spoken by California’s health workforce well enough to provide care.
  • Spanish is the most underrepresented language in the health workforce. It is underrepresented in all six workforce categories and all nine regions in California.
  • Several language groups in the health workforce are represented well above their population average statewide; Other languages, Asian and Pacific Islander languages, and Other Indo-European languages are represented above their population average in all nine regions, and five of the six workforce categories.
  • The percent of the workforce that speaks Spanish has increased steadily over time statewide.
  • Language diversity within the Medicine workforce category has changed the least over time statewide.

Note: Data represents a custom tabulation of healing arts survey responses from licenses in active status on July 1st, 2023. Population data and groupings are provided by the US Census Bureau as of 2021.

How HCAI Created This Product

  • Licensure data was collected by the Department of Consumer Affairs; all data presented represents a snapshot of the active licensee population on July 1st, 2023.
  • This product is based on HCAI Health Workforce License Renewal Survey data; all data presented as of July 1st, 2023. Respondents were asked to select all languages they spoke fluently/well enough to provide direct services to clients. The responses were adjusted using cell based weighting to create estimates of the full population. Decline to State answers were excluded from the data for each visualization. Licenses without an Issue Date were excluded from the License Issue Date visualization.
  • Population data was retrieved from the US Census Bureau’s DP02 Selected Social Characteristics in the United States 2021 ACS 5 year estimate. Census language groups were defined using the US Census Bureau’s Four-group and Forty-Two group classifications. These data are reported at overarching language categories for accurate comparison to the Census. These groupings may mask the representation of subgroups; for example, an underrepresentation for Hmong as a subgroup may be masked when grouped with Asian and Pacific Islander as a Census language group.
  • Regions were defined by California Health Interview Survey (CHIS) and are listed below:
Central CoastMonterey, San Benito, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Santa Cruz, Ventura
Greater Bay AreaAlameda, Contra Costa, Marin, Napa, San Francisco, San Mateo, Santa Clara, Solano, Sonoma
Inland EmpireRiverside, San Bernardino
Los Angeles CountyLos Angeles
Northern and SierraAlpine, Amador, Butte, Calaveras, Colusa, Del Norte, Glenn, Humboldt, Inyo, Lake, Lassen, Mariposa, Mendocino, Modoc, Mono, Nevada, Plumas, Shasta, Sierra, Siskiyou, Sutter, Tehama, Trinity, Tuolumne, Yuba
Orange CountyOrange
Sacramento AreaEl Dorado, Placer, Sacramento, Yolo
San Diego AreaImperial, San Diego
San Joaquin ValleyFresno, Kern, Kings, Madera, Merced, San Joaquin, Stanislaus, Tulare
  • Workforce Categories were defined by HCAI using License Type and are listed below:
Workforce CategoryLicense Types
Advanced Practice NursingClinical Nurse Specialist, Licensed Midwife, Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, Nurse Practitioner
Allied HealthAdvanced Practice Pharmacist, Audiologist, Chiropractor, Doctor of Podiatric Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Occupational Therapist, Occupational Therapy Assistant, Optometrist, Pharmacy Technician, Physical Therapist, Physical Therapist Assistant, Polysomnographic Technician, Polysomnographic Technologist, Psychiatric Technician, Registered Pharmacist, Respiratory Care Practitioner, Speech Pathologist, Speech-Language Pathology Assistant
Behavioral HealthAssociate Clinical Social Worker, Associate Marriage and Family Therapist, Associate Professional Clinical Counselor, Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Licensed Educational Psychologist, Licensed Marriage and Family Therapist, Licensed Professional Clinical Counselor, Psychiatric Mental Health Nurse, Psychologist, Registered Psychological Associate
MedicineNaturopathic Doctor, Osteopathic Physician and Surgeon, Physician and Surgeon, Physician Assistant
NursingPublic Health Nurse, Registered Nurse, Vocational Nurse
Oral HealthDentist, Orthodontic Assistant, RDA In Extended Functions, RDH Alternative Practice, RDH Extended Function, Registered Dental Assistant, Registered Dental Hygienist

Additional Information

Topic: Health Workforce
Source Link: HCAI Health Workforce Languages Spoken Data
Citation: HCAI – Health Workforce Languages Spoken Data – Languages Spoken by California’s Health Workforce, 2023
Temporal Coverage: Current as of July 1, 2023
Spatial/Geographic Coverage: Regional
Frequency: Annual