In 2003, a small group of Chinese-American nurses, all working in the Kansas City area, came together to share experiences, learn from one another and encourage each other. Today, the CAN (Chinese American Nurses) Sisters meet twice a month as we continue to share our nursing and American life experiences. Our common denominator is that English is our second language. We feverishly try to improve our listening, writing, and speaking skills in English. We especially want to reduce our translation and response time during conversations. We also have in common that we all work extremely hard; we are reliable, friendly, caring, and happy at work.
Recently, we met for one of our regular meetings. We sat in a circle in my living room and began with introductions. On that particular night we had three overseas visitors from China who were part of an exchange program at Children’s Mercy Hospitals and Clinics in Kansas City. The evening turned out to be an especially moving night for all of us. We each told the story of our life’s challenges and triumphs. We all talked of our struggles to memorize the names of cells, medications, and tiny germs in English! It was fun night.
After my guests left, I started cleaning the dishes. As I did, I suddenly was struck with the thought: How could I ever take these amazing, beautiful nurses for granted? I am so lucky to know them! At the end of every meeting, we feel charged and ready to face the world together. CAN nurses only need opportunities to prove themselves as great nurses. Here are a few of their stories:
SS – She was a nurse in China. After arriving in the United States, she started studying for the nursing board while also raising a child and working at local restaurants to help support her family. She studied hard and passed the nursing board. She then enrolled at Johnson County Community College for an RN refresher course. She completed her clinical RN training at a local specialty hospital. Her clinical instructor noticed how hard she worked and her solid knowledge of nursing. The instructor’s immediate supervisor then hired her as soon as she completed her clinical training practice. SS has being doing very well at that local specialty hospital for more than five years. Doctors trust her and her nursing judgment. She consistently receives praise from the doctors and other staff members.
FF – She also was a nurse in China. She studied and passed the nursing board soon after SS passed the board. FF went on and studied many more nursing specialties, and earned herself national certification in infusion nursing and wound care. She was a supervisor at a local nursing home with multiple certified nursing skills. She was doing an outstanding job in nursing.
GG – She practiced medicine in China. As soon as she arrived in the United States, she went to nursing school, studied extremely hard, and she passed the nursing board. She does not practice nursing yet; she is still waiting for her green card and permission to work. She is ready to serve.
HH – She was a nursing instructor in China. Right after arriving in the United States, HH started studying for the nursing board, even while she was caring for her premature baby. She passed the nursing board exam, and then went to work at a hospital. For many years, she has been a well liked and well respected weekend night nurse. She turned down a promotion opportunity, as her nurse manager suggested, to become a night charge nurse.
MM – When she arrived in Kansas City, MM was hired as a nurse technician even though she was a RN in China. She was living in an empty apartment so learning English was difficult. A phone book became her best tool to learn conversational English. For eight to 10 hours a day, she would turn the pages and randomly pick a person or a store from the phone book, call them and ask questions; when she flapped on “W” section and saw a water bed shop, she would ask “what is water bed? How much cost for a water bed” --- etc. She listened attentively and tried to learn as much as possible. Alone in her apartment, the phone book connected her to her new world; this is how she learned and improved. She wanted to work as a nurse as soon as possible. Eventually, she passed her nursing board, and earned two master degrees and four national nursing and nurse management certifications. She is working at a hospital today as a Hospital Shift Supervisor.
ZZ – She was a nurse in China. Months of hard studies for boards, she passed her nursing board a few months ago. She sent out many applications to many hospitals. She received only one reply, requesting a phone interview. After the phone interview, she never heard from the hospital again. Personally, I believe a telephone interview can be a form of discrimination, especially for a nurse for whom English is her second language. We loss over 50% of effective communication tools in a telephone interviewing. Phone interviews don’t always allow us the opportunity to show how much we can do and how well we can be as a great nurse.
KK – She was an experienced nurse in China. She is now taking care of a child with multiple allergies. She would like to work as a nurse in United States.
DD – In China, DD majored in English. She worked in a non-nursing field in the United States for a while and then decided she wanted to be a nurse. She went to LPN school, and then to an RN bridge program. Soon she became a RN. In her nursing student training, she worked at a telemetry unit. She was well-liked in her nursing practice and she was hired by that unit as soon as she completed her clinical training. The staff in that unit love her, and she loves nursing.
WW – She came to the United States with her husband. At that time, her husband was an owner of a local restaurant. WW did not want to work in the restaurant, she went on to study nursing as a new fresh beginning foreign student, and passed the nursing board. She worked as a nurse at a large local hospital for a few years, and then she earned her advanced nursing degree to become a nurse practitioner. She works as a nurse practitioner as soon as she completed school. She was alone and struggled for a long time in learning what was the nursing about, but she made it.
One of our visitors, Janice, asked, “Was there anyone who did not make it? Did anyone go back China?” Without pause and without knowing who else was going to respond, the CAN sisters answered in one voice in the spirit of our sisterhood:
“No, that was not an option for us.”
“Nobody said it was not hard.”
“We were determined to make it in this world together.”
“We were not going to quit.”
“We appreciate each other.”
“We learn from each other.”
“We are going to be strong, stand up straight, and shine.”
Our visitors were very impressed and encouraged. They also said they were very proud of their countrymen who are “making a difference in their new world.”
CAN, yes we can. CAN, yes we can.
This article was written for DiversityNursing.com by:
Mai Tseng RN, BSN, MPA, EMBA, NE-BC, LNC, CRNI.
Hospital Shift Supervisor
Children's Mercy Hospitals & Clinics
2401 Gillham Road
Kansas City, MO 64108