Nursing School as an ESL (English as a Second Language) Student

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Surviving nursing school is hard . . . doing so as an ESL student is that

much harder.  In this episode we discuss tips from other ESL students for surviving nursing school.

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Podcast Transcription

What’s up guys is Jon Haws, RN, founder of and today we’re going to do an episode that’s just a little bit different. We’ve got a question in the Facebook group for our members of that was asking for tips for ESL nursing students or English as a second language nursing students. Now English is my first language and so I didn’t have a lot of information here. So what I did is I went back to the group and I went back to some of the members of and I asked them what their tips were because there’s a, a large number of people in there who are English as a second language students and who are, who have a lot of great tips on how to be successful as a nursing student, even if English is your second language. So got some really good tips there and I put them together and I came up with really about six tips, uh, or six suggestions for how to adjust your studies if you’re an English as a second language student.

Now, if you’re not, if English is your first language, uh, some of these tips I think will still be really, really helpful for you and might be worth implementing into your study session. So let me just talk about the six different tips and hopefully you can implement or pick out one or two that you aren’t doing yet and you can start doing it to find increased to success in nursing school. But let me read a quick quote really quick. One of the students says, you will always double the work, your peers, you will always double a work your peers, sorry. You will always do double the work of your peers who are native speakers, but it just makes you special. And I think that’s absolutely true, that look, this is going to be really hard and you’re probably have to put more work in than those people whose native tongue is English.

However, that does make you special. Imagine the connection you’re going to have with patients from Cuba or from Germany or from wherever you’re from, from Finland. Uh, as you share with them your stories and your experiences of going through school, becoming a nurse, even with English as a second language. And so some of the feedback we got you guys was from students who are from the countries. Uh, there was from Cuba, from Philippines, from Finland, from Germany, from all over. So you’re not alone. Even if you are the only ESL student in your program, realize that there are many students from all over the world studying um, in the USA in America right now to become a nurse where they are ESL students as well. So here’s the tips that they offered. The first one was scheduling one on one tutoring sessions. It sounds like many schools actually have, um, the availability for you to get one on one tutoring sessions.

Take advantage of that. There’s programs like net tutor or there might be academic counselors who are willing to sit with you and do the one on one tutoring. Don’t let the language barrier or the fear of speaking one-on-one with somebody. Stop you from getting that one on one that’s available for you and many times for free. Another one would be getting a study buddy. Now, I’m not an ESL student but the person who I studied with all the time actually was, he was um, directly from India and so English wasn’t his first language. He was very, had a very good command of English but he was still learning the language. So we would study all day together. He had a much deeper understanding of anatomy and physiology and pharmacology than I did because of his previous academic background. But I had a much stronger command of English and so we could talk back and forth and teach each other.

And so think about that power that there is there that you can actually help some of these non ESL students with some of your background and some of your knowledge and they can help you with the language. So find a buddy, work with them and let that be an actually an asset for you. Another one is Grammarly, just install the free extension Chrome extension Grammarly, which will help a lot with your PowerPoints and your presentations to make sure your grammar is appropriate as well as your spelling. Another one is read your notes, read your notes over and over and over again. If the teacher sends out PowerPoints, read them ahead of time, prepare for them and make sure that you truly understand them. Slow down, take breaks and make sure that you understand all the notes that are given to you. Another recommendation that I think is very good is to record the lectures and listen to them later.

The benefit of this, as you can actually slow down the speech, you can look up any phrases that are maybe idioms or that aren’t common in uh, to you or in your native tongue and you can pause it. You can stop, you can look things up and you can listen to the same lecture over and over and over again. Even if it’s listening in your car, listening while you walk, just listening to it. Not only is that going to help you repeat this lecture, but it’s also going to get you listening to medical English, which will only help you as well. Another one is reading the chapters ahead of time. Now going back to the quote that I started this with that you might always spend double the time, double the work that your non ESL classmates are spending. But that’s kind of what it is going to take and it’s going to take that extra effort, uh, on top of what everybody else is doing to really understand and grasp all this material.

The last tip that I would give you guys is to, and this was from one of the students, is to stop when you don’t understand something and look it up, whether it’s during a lecture, whether it’s repeating a lecture, whether it’s a, as you’re doing clinical notes, whether it’s in clinical, if you don’t understand something, stop and look it up. Now, like I said, English is my first language, but I did live in a, I did do a service mission where I lived, uh, with a, um, a Hispanic population for a couple of years. And the thing that I did that helped me the most guys was keeping a little tiny binder, teeny tiny binder that was just a little flipbook ones that you can put in like a front pocket. And I carry that everywhere with me. Anytime I heard a word in Spanish that I didn’t know, I wrote it down.

Anytime I thought of a word in English that I realized I wanted to know how to say in Spanish, I would write it down on the other side of the paper. And every single night I would come home and put those notes back together and then repeat those words, repeat those words, repeat those words over and over and over and over again. I would, when I’d be walking down the street, I would say every letter of every alphabet or of every license plate in Spanish to help with accent, uh, and just repeating those words over and over and over. I studied the language, just the language, an hour, every single day. And these types of things help you guys in. So again, you are going to be spending more work because you’re learning nursing and you’re learning English. But you can do it and remember that that does make you a little extra special and it does give you that little boost, um, and your unique story and the things that you can share with your patients. Uh, once you do graduate, you guys, I know you can do this, okay? Um, you’re not alone. There’s students just like you all over who are learning and don’t let the language barrier stop you from achieving your dream. We’d love you guys go out and be your best self today. Happy nursing.


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