Christine Paul Cardenas is a student at Herzing University’s Kenosha campus and is enrolled in the LPN to BSN Bridge option. She shares her personal and professional journey to becoming a nurse, and why communication is an important part of a nurse’s job.
I was born and raised in a little suburban-like town near Manila in the Philippines before arriving in the states at 18 years old. I didn’t dream of becoming a nurse when I was a kid. I originally wanted to earn a communication degree to become a journalist. I loved everything about the art of communication. I watched documentaries, listened attentively in my English classes and read a lot of books when I was a kid.
My parents told me it’s hard to find a job in that field and I should be more practical in making decisions for my future. I decided to enter nursing since I have asthma and allergies and I wanted to learn how to take care of myself. I also wanted a career that will give me stability and job security. It was kind of traditional for me to become a nurse, too. I was deeply influenced by my relatives who also work in the healthcare field.
I felt pressured and frustrated at first, but I learned to love nursing, too. I enjoy my work and to be honest, I love being a nurse. I’ve been working as a nurse for 6 years now in skilled nursing facilities (both short-term and long-term care) and assisted living facilities. I decided to go back to school to learn more skills, advance my career and pursue more opportunities.
I thought by not earning a communication degree, that was the end of my chances at honing my communication skills, write and possibly be published, but I couldn’t have been more wrong! Nursing turns out to be a career with endless opportunities. Even if I didn’t want to become a journalist, I learned various ways of writing. In nursing classes, I especially learned more about writing APA research papers. Believe it or not, I enjoyed every single APA paper that I wrote because my love for writing just grows.
Effective communication in nursing is important at all levels whether verbal or non-verbal, formal or informal. Nurses are the heartbeat of healthcare. Everybody wants to see and speak to the nurse on duty. Managers come to the floor and ask for updates. Families are always asking for explanations about how the patient’s doing. Doctors come and give orders. Pharmacists call the nurses if they need an e-script or clarification of prescriptions. You need to debrief other nurses of changes when your shift ends. You must be a great communicator both in speaking in writing so that important patient information is communicated from person to person.
During my time as a nurse, I’ve experienced a lot of glitches that could be fixed or improved. One mistake can cause a domino effect and unfortunately, these errors could be dangerous. There are many reasons why you might have poor communication in healthcare. For example, a nurse could mishear some information or be unfamiliar with a condition. If a doctor handwrites an order and the nurse does not understand the handwriting, the nurse needs to clarify that order to avoid medication errors.
When a patient or a family has a different background, religion, or culture from the nurse, there could be issues. For example, in my professional experience, I know that some religious denominations only want nurses who are of the same gender to take care of them and their families. Those things need to be communicated clearly to avoid conflicts and arguments.
When a patient or nurse is from very a different culture, and one of them is not culturally competent, some gestures or words might be misinterpreted. When someone bows out of respect, it may not have the same meaning for others. Some American gestures such as a thumbs-up might have a different meaning in someone else’s culture. You might be offending someone without even realizing it. When a patient and the nurse don’t speak the same language and a translator isn’t available, the communication becomes difficult with a language barrier. When a patient is deaf and no nursing staff knows sign language, it’s also a challenge.
Be Open to Learning
I’ve honed my skills by listening, observing and most of all by educating myself. In nursing, you need to have all the “hard skills” to do your job, but “soft skills” such as being an effective communicator make you a better nurse. It helps you understand the people around you. My advice to current nursing students would be is to learn as much as you can in the world around you. Because we live in the U.S. we serve patients who are from all over the world. We should all be encouraged to learn different cultures and languages. It helps a lot because, in healthcare, one language is not enough.
Nurses communicate with the doctors, our fellow nurses, other healthcare workers and the families of our patients. As for new nurses or new nursing students, I’d say learn as much as you can, listen and observe to what your patient is saying and doing, get as much experience as you can, and always ask another nurse or your professor if you’re not sure.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.