Lessons Learned

Lori Conn
Professor, Nursing Program

I have learned that my first impression of a student is often not the correct impression and have challenged myself not to be quick to make assumptions about students, but get to know them first.  Kim was the first English as Second language (ESL) student that I encountered as a Clinical Nursing instructor several years ago.   In my initial interactions with Kim, I found her difficult to understand due to her strong accent and she did not display confidence in her abilities.  It was very important for her success in her clinical rotation to be able to communicate effectively and be able to demonstrate confidence.  I was concerned that her lack of these abilities would impact her success in the course.

As the first few weeks of clinical progressed, Kim remained quiet and did not ask many questions.  She continued to struggle in her communications with me and with the patients assigned to her.    I really wasn’t sure how to help Kim with these issues and draw her out of her shell.   I knew that I needed to discuss these issues with Kim in order for her to be successful; however, I was not sure how to go about it. I was concerned that in confronting her she would feel offended or singled out and it may make the situation worse.   I decided to approach her in an open manner to discuss my concerns with her.   At first, she looked down from me and remained silent.  I felt that my fears were true.   I told her of my experiences as a nursing student and how nervous I felt, and that I could imagine this was much more difficult with a communication barrier.  This helped her to open up.  I learned of the immense pressure placed on her by her family to succeed and the enormous amount of time she spent to just understand her readings and be able to apply it.  I also learned that her culture did not question teachers.  That by doing so, showed disrespect to them. Through her written work I did learn that she was very intelligent and given time, she could apply concepts taught to real world situations and was able to be successful in the clinical setting.

I felt this experience helped me to grow in coming out of my shell with students, especially those of different cultures and backgrounds.  It helped me to overcome my own fears of offending or singling out students.  I now understand the value in understanding each student’s own unique identify and how it can enrich the learning environment.