Fellow student and clinical incompetence

Students General Students


We have a student in my clinical group that worries me. She does well in theory but her performance at clinicals is down right scary.

English is not her first language and she has a speech impediment. It is almost impossible to understand what she is saying and she doesn't understand much of what is said to her. She refuses to admit there are any communication issues and becomes angry when you ask her to repeat herself.

The clinical instructor is very aware of the situation and has asked the peer coordinator each week to keep a close eye on her and document any communication problems with patients or unsafe practices we observe. She is the only student who has not yet given meds. I think the instructor is afraid of a med error.

She got a failing clinical grade at midterm, so she began complaining that the teacher is discriminating against her because she is Asian. That is ridiculous because we have 3 other Asian students in our clinical group and they are doing well.

She said this week that the nursing school has agreed not to flunk her this semester and allow her to advance to second semester because she threatened to sue for discrimination.

It seems so wrong to me that she is being passed simply because a threat of a lawsuit. If an English speaker had performed as she did, they would have been flunked from the program. I know how difficult it is to learn another language, but health care is an area where poor communication can cost someone their life!

I realize this is not my issue, but it really bothers me that she will be taking care of children and pregnant women next semester, when everyone knows she is not capable of providing safe and competent care. I sincerely hope she will not be in my clinical group next fall. I feel guilty not running into her patient's room and warning them to beware!

Thanks for letting me vent.


1,483 Posts

Specializes in Emergency Dept, M/S.

It's good that your instructors are aware of the situation, so they'll be keeping an eye on things. Try not to let her, or anyone, drag you into the "they're all out to get me" kind-of-thing. That may reflect badly on you if she thinks you have her support, and goes to instructor with it.

Good luck! :)


13 Posts

No offense or disrespect intended but, don't you have enough things too worry about, like your grades and you passing your courses. :stone If you really are worried about this students skills then why don't you work with this student and help them out with what you think they are lacking in.

IMO if the student really isn't cutting it then she will be weeded out, or she won't be able to make it to the end. (That's what school is for, seeing who is competent and who isn't)

Just make sure your the best you can be! Let the instructors worry about her, its their job.


1,907 Posts

Specializes in OB, lactation.

If they decided to keep her for now because of a lawsuit threat, maybe it is just so they can document more of the reasons before they let her go (and hopefully keep a close eye on her until they feel they have enough "evidence").


115 Posts

Yikes, that is scary! I would hate to think that it was my mom she was taking care of and couldn't understand what the nurse was saying to her! I really wonder why the school is letting her continue even though she is not up to par. I understand the threat of a lawsuit, but they are bound to have documentation showing that she is not clinically competent (ie her mid-term evaluation), plus the fact that other Asian students are in the class and doing well kind of discounts her discrimination accusations. I understand how this could make you feel aggrivated, you are busting your butt to do things well, and someone else can't do the job and will pass right along with you! I would just steer clear of that situation and keep doing what you are doing...if she does not catch up soon, I would expect the school would do something about it. Good luck with your schooling and future nursing career!



532 Posts


I understand that it isn't my problem. But I feel somewhat concerned because I, and several other students, have been asked to document our observations of her interaction with patients. I just don't like having any involvement with the situation. It makes me feel somewhat responsible.

orrnlori, RN

549 Posts

Wow, if you ever practice at a teaching hospital you will work with plenty of doctors and residents that barely speak understandable english, as a matter of fact, you will likely be the interpreter for your confused patient who didn't catch a word of it.

Who's asking you to document, the instructors?


13 Posts


I understand that it isn't my problem. But I feel somewhat concerned because I, and several other students, have been asked to document our observations of her interaction with patients. I just don't like having any involvement with the situation. It makes me feel somewhat responsible.

Bizzare, Who is asking you to document your observations? Once agian no disrespect, but who cares what a student nurses opinion is on another student. I only say this because your both essentially on the same level at this point. The instructors are the ones whom will determine the fate of this student in question. If she stays its because they let her and felt she was worthy. Its been my experience that the best thing for you to do would be to stay out of it. Plead the 5th, and go about your buisness. The instructors will do as they see fit. In fact it sounds like they have already made their minds up about her. :)

suzanne4, RN

26,410 Posts

This just goes to prove my point again. Universities in the US will accept a foreign student who has only passed TOEFL, but they do not reuqire TWE or TSE for most of the programs. Communication skills are tested only with the TWE and TSE. I live and work in SE Asia, so I am saying this with open eyes to the subject. You have only heard from her that the school is going to keep her for the next semester, but probably not from the school. They may be giving her another chance, but if you can't pass the clinicals, then you are out.

Are you sure that she has an actual "speech impediment"....remember that is different countries the tongue is used differently in making sounds. As as example, there is no "FL" combination in the Thai language. At first I have a problem understanding many of my students, but with some proper training, it can be taught.

But I do feel that it is inappropriate fo your instructors asking you to document interactions between this student and patients. That is their responsibility. That is what they are paid for.

If they are questioning her capabilities, then it is up to the instructor to be around the whole time as that student is functioning under the instructor's license. If they have not allowed her to give meds, it sounds like they are doing the right thing. Rmember that you may only be hearing one side of the story. I wouldn't dwell on it.......................just worry about your own clinicals at this time.

Specializes in Critical Care, ER.

Perhaps your program could get feedback from patients about this woman's communication skills. Clearly you aren't objective at this point. I also feel that it is extremely unprofessional for the school to involve you in any way... it is interfering with your education which is well, not right. :stone

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