Foreign nurses who can't speak English well

  1. I work at a hospital where a number of Indian and Spanish speaking nurses speak broken English, at best. Sometimes I wonder if they understand everything I am saying to them. Also ran into a Vietnamese nurse who everyone was giving a hard time to on her orientation because her English was so bad. The Spanish and Vietnamese nurse were brought to the States by the hospital. The Vietnamese nurse could read written english well, but had difficulty speaking. The Spanish speaking nurses seem to have trouble with passing the NCLEX. I wonder if recruiters evaluate the nurses command of English. I can understand them and am patient, but a number of my colleagues are impatient with them. I feel sorry for them.
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  2. 17 Comments

  3. by   Shamrock
    It really must be quite hard for them. I would
    think that for patient safety hospitals would
    ensure that their command of the language would
    be proficient.
  4. by   PowerPuffGirl
    About a month ago, I had to take my partner to the ER. Her nurse (an RN) spoke very broken English and had great difficulty understanding spoken English.

    It was very frustrating (and frightening!) for me to realize that this nurse did not speak English adequately enough for us to communicate my partner's drug allergies or symptoms, and we were speaking slowly and clearly!

    (In case anyone is wondering, yes, we filed a formal complaint).
  5. by   Agnus
    I have every respect for foreign born nurses and those who speak more than one language. I wonder how on earth those who have a serious problem with the language pass the NCLEX. Perhaps they read and write better than they speak and understand verbal language.
    If this is the case then there should be some requirement that their verbal and listening skills be up graded prior to being issued a license.
    Being able to speak the common language of the country where you practice is important.
    This is not a case where nurses are brought in from a foreign country on a charitable mission. This is the United States where we can afford to pay nurses. These are PAYING patients who deseve to undrstand and be understood.
    I am sure these are very intelligent nurses, and learning the verbal language needs to be a requirement prior to practice. IMHO
    Last edit by Agnus on Apr 16, '03
  6. by   colleen10
    I used to work in foreign recruitment of Indian IT professionals and I give kudos of credit to anyone that leaves their homeland on their own to go to a foreign country where they know no one and start a new life.

    However, when dealing in the business of recruiting, like so many other businesses it's all about the money.

    The foreign nurse is just a person walking around with $$ signs on them. If the person can meet the minimum amt. of certification (Written NCLEX exam) to be passed off onto a hospital so that the recruiting agency can make some $$ off of them, so be it. I'm sure all admin. cares about is finding cheap labor and they do with foreign nurses. Admin. doesn't have to work the floor with them so what do they care. Until there is a law that says foreign nurses must pass meet a certain level of verbal proficiency I doubt you will see any changes.

    I will say that I only have experience with recruiting, not nursing at this point so the above is just my jaded statement about business in general. If I'm wrong let me know.

    On another note, my mother in law is orignally from Panama and has lived in the US for close to two decades now and even she says "if you can't speak the language, get out of the country".
  7. by   MandyInMS
    We have a lot of Fillipino(sp?) nurses working at our hospital...on the good side:most are very hard-working,kind,nice people to work with..as RN's they get paid LESS than a prn LPN makes..which is very unfair to me.There is a language barrier there..many times they are unable to express exactly what they mean in a situation..making things a little 'sticky'..had this one poor guy..would always knod his head 'yes' and you would THINK he understood what you were saying...come to find out he didn't have a clue what you were talking about...that was scarey..if he couldn't understand me , how could he understand his pts? or orders that were being given by a MD? really needs to be some sort of testing in verbal communication for sure.
  8. by   PhePhe
    It is sort of like having a teacher for a tough math or science course, and you can't understand their accent. That is very stressful.
    The vietnamese nurse told me the only time she speaks English is in the hospital. Outside the hospital family and friends all speak vietnamese. In other words, she doesn't get to practice conversational english.
  9. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    My experience with foreign-born nurses has been mostly positive, in terms of language barriers anyway. What bugs me is the number of foreign-born MDs who come to Canada for fellowships or residencies, paid for by their governments, who can't string three words together. I can't count the number of times I've explained, reexplained and dumbed down my explanation to one of these folks, and still not have them understand me. We have a CV surgery resident from a South-east Asian country whose English is very poor. He makes his rounds right at the start of the shift, asks questions I can't answer because I haven't looked at the patient yet, and then rattles off a bunch of orders I'm not allowed to follow, even if I understood them. Then off he goes, coming back between cases to do whatever it was he planned to do, and gets steamed because the pt. hasn't had the pre-procedure tests or sedation. Recently I had a little six month old ex-prem Trisomy 21 baby with BPD and multiple newly closed VSDs, stable, but prone to snits with any handling. Joe comes to the bedside and wants to take out the pacing wires. I explain about the kid's snits (in toddler-level language... I'm a peds nurse, aren't I?) and want to give some sedation first, he says the kid doesn't need it and goes ahead and pulls the wires. Knowing what would happen, I had the bagger on the bed by the kid's face. He snits, I have to bag his heart rate up from 40 and Joe is stunned. He watches me resus the kid for a couple of minutes and then just walks away...:angryfire
  10. by   Katnip
    I have a friend from Canada-Ontario-who is a native English speaker. She applied to take the NCLEX in Colorado after she moved here for her husband's job. She had to go to Chicago at her own expense to take an English exam. I don't know if there was an oral exam or not.
  11. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    Okay, Cyberkat, that's just ridiculous! But here's another kneeslapper... or perhaps forehead slapper... you be the judge.

    A number of years ago we bought a house in the middle of the block in a nice neighbourhood. We bought the house in August, but didn't move in until November. The first weekday that we were in the house, I noticed that there was a line of parked cars extending from the corner to about six houses past ours. We found out that the "mothballed" school down the street had been revitalized as an adult education facility, teaching...you guessed it... English as a second language. There was no parking lot there, because it had been an elementary school, and their students don't drive, at least in Canada! This was going to be a problem, since our son is disabled, and the school bus needed to be able to get to the curb to let him off. We got the city to approve a handicapped loading zone for school hours, September to June. The signs were of a pictogram with the "P" stroked out, and I attached some blue wheelchair pictograms to them; they had the times and dates the zone was effective clearly printed on them using the 24 hour clock. But people kept parking there, and the city began ticketing them. Our next-door neighbour was one of the program's teachers. She approached my husband to complain about her students being ticketed and how they were immigrants and they were trying to learn English to better their standard of living, and they couldn't afford a $65 parking ticket. His question was, "How did they get a Canadian driver's license? You have to be able to read street signs to do that, don't you?" She quite huffily replied that she would make sure they all understood that they couldn't park in front of our house anymore... like we were just being mean or something! Never did like her...
  12. by   Agnus
    In the US. (at least in this state) you can take the driver test in numerous languages other than english. Driving is a different issue and it is not necessary to understand the language to drive safely. (folks drive all over europe without knowing the language of the particular country they happen to be in) Diving and nursing are different.
    I work with foreign born nurses. I have on many occasions defended these nurses who were maligned by patients or visitors based solely on thier ethnic status. And they have an excellent command of the language.
  13. by   NotReady4PrimeTime
    In Canada, because we are a two-official-languages country, most legally required street signs include internationally recognized pictograms. Except in Quebec, where they get away with French-only signs because they're special.
  14. by   Katnip
    janfrn, I didn't know that about Quebec. I was going to visit friends there. Maybe I'll fly and have them do all the driving since my French would wind us up in the Arctic somewhere.

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