This study explores the experiences of internationally educated nurses using English as a second language, recruited by advanced economies to supplement diminishing local workforces, as they progress from language learning programs to clinical settings.
Understanding the journey these nurses experience as language learners and professionals highlights ways in which they could be better supported in their adaptation and integration into the Australian workforce.
Design and methods
By means of semi-structured interviews, the nurses’ narratives were explored and documented. Thematic analysis was used to interpret their experiences as they move from the English language classroom to the clinical setting.
The participants had all completed studies in English as a second language in Australia and had experienced working in Australian as part of a competency based assessment program. At the time of the study, conducted in South Australia, six of the nurses had met the English language requirements of the Nurses Board of South Australia and had started working as Registered Nurses in Australia. Four participants were still to reach the mandatory English requirements, among whom three were to return to their home countries due to visa restrictions, and continue their efforts to attain the English language proficiency requirement.
There were six female participants and four male. Five participants were Indian, four Chinese, and one, Nepalese.
In exploring their experiences, themes of identity and belonging, safety and competence and adapting to new roles and ways of communicating are revealed. In their own words, these nurses reveal the challenges they face as they concurrently manage the roles of language learners and professionals.
The journey from language classroom to clinical setting is a process that goes beyond the notions of language proficiency; these nurses are constructing new cultural and professional identities. Bridging the gap between preparation and practice involves making complex linguistic, cultural and social choices, often unsupported. Understanding their experience will better inform approaches to preparation and facilitate their adaptation and integration.