by Rebecca Rakoczy
Assessing a patient’s pain is an important diagnostic tool for nurses. Is the patient in chronic pain or is the pain acute, coming on suddenly? The type of pain often dictates what course of treatment follows.
But what if that nurse doesn’t understand the terms “acute” or “chronic?”
For many of Georgia Perimeter College’s international nursing students, some typical medical terms are often lost in translation. And without understanding the context of a word, the proper answer on a test—or in the clinic—can’t be made.
That’s where Jeanette Crawford and Dr. Becky Craig come in.
For the past year, the two nursing instructors have tag-teamed during their lunch hours to tutor international students on the meaning of typical medical terms and phrases. The small study groups also have attracted English-speaking nursing students who want a refresher on terms used on tests.
Their program was developed from a grant and collaboration between the Nursing and ESL departments, said Crawford. During the first year, ESL professor Dr. Rose Camalo-Hernandez read the Fundamentals of Nursing class textbook with an eye for any words, phrases or concepts that she knew could be difficult for an international student whose second language was English. She then developed study guides and worksheets that are being used for each entering Fundamentals of Nursing class.
“We find that the meanings of various idioms and expressions used by others are often confusing for our international nursing students,” said Crawford. “We meet once a week to discuss key vocabulary words, phrases and concepts.”
Over the past few months, they have covered a host of terms for pain, rest and sleep, safety and mobility, pharmacology, skin, hair and nails, and loss and grief. The topics are chosen to coincide with the students’ tests.
On one Tuesday, students in the study class hailed from Haiti, Korea, Peru and Ghana.
“Coming to this class helps me prepare to go to clinic. Many of these words are new to me,” said Heejin Yoon, a nursing student from Korea.
For Nancy Tordzro from Ghana, the class helps her understand terms—and pronounce them correctly. “I think I have a bit of an accent, and I’m coming here so people can understand me more easily,” she said.
Joanna Carbajul just likes the smaller study group. “There are lots of book words that I already know. But I like the idea of small group study, and that’s why I come,” said the Peruvian nursing student.
Craig notes that often it’s the cultural differences in understanding that stymie some students. “Idioms and slang are challenging, but so is the difference in cultures,” she said. “I think students who have language/culture issues have benefited from the tutorial services.”