They Came Here for Us: Challenges for Vietnamese American Nursing Students

Sunday, 29 October 2017: 11:05 AM

Mary L. Wilby, PhD
School of Nursing and Health Sciences, La Salle University, Philadelphia, PA, USA

Non-traditional nursing students, including Vietnamese Americans often face challenges that differ from those of their white counterparts. These challenges have significant impact on academic success and contribute to underrepresentation of minorities in nursing. This study explored the lived experience of twelve Vietnamese American undergraduate nursing students and recent graduates from baccalaureate nursing programs through the use of phenomenologically based interviews.

Participants gave insight into the challenges faced when their roles in their families conflicted with expectations of students aspiring to become professional nurses. Finding balance between preserving family loyalty and traditional values and achieving success in preparing for a profession that values autonomy was found often a struggle. Study participants identified challenges similar to those identified in the literature by other ethnic minority nursing students and foreign born nurses. A sense of isolation associated with limited opportunities for socialization contributed to participants’ challenges. Pressures from families for success and fear of disappointing parents were often present. Responsibility for making financial contributions to the family in various ways was a frequent cause of distress and contributed to conflicts between home and academic life. The cost of education and contributing to the family, both in the U.S. and in Vietnam made work a necessity, thus making successful degree completion more difficult. Additionally, participants often contributed to family welfare by helped parents and grandparents with limited education to navigate the complex English speaking communities they lived in. Traditional gender roles were often in opposition to the new roles participants sought to take on. It was often noted that the role of women in Vietnamese culture, particularly younger daughters requires caring for family members. The obligation to manage both student and family caregiver roles was a source of tension and anxiety.

Despite significant stress experienced during participants’ education, they perceived nursing as a rewarding career that could offer many benefits including financial stability and social status for themselves and their families. Nurse educators can create and promote a supportive learning environment to assist students in achieving success.