In Their Own Words: The Experience of Professional Nurses at a Northern Vietnamese Women's Hospital

Monday, 22 July 2013

Njoki Ng'ang'a, MPhil, MSc, RNC
School of Nursing, COLUMBIA UNIVERSITY, New York, NY
Mary W. Byrne, PhD, DNP, MPH, FAAN
School of Nursing, Columbia University, New York, NY

Learning Objective 1: Identify the components of the American Association of Critical Care Nurses standards for a health work environment.

Learning Objective 2: Describe at least three characteristics of work environments common to many low-income countries that are detrimental to the ability of nurses to impact patient outcomes.

Background: Nurses in Vietnam, as is typical of many low-income countries, are hampered from impacting health outcomes by low occupational status, overcrowded hospitals and few career development opportunities.  According to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, a healthy work environment is critical to fostering clinical excellence and ensuring optimal patient outcomes.  In order to understand the current practice environment encountered by nurses in Vietnam in the most realistic way, we listened to the voices of nurses currently performing nursing roles in Vietnam.

Purpose: The purpose of this study was to explore the emic (insider) perspectives on cultural meaning applied by nurses at a northern Vietnamese women’s hospital to influence professional practice and interpret experience. 

Methods:  A micro-ethnography approach was used.  Seven nurses and one vice-Dean of a school of nursing were interviewed.  Data collection consisted of open-ended interviews, participant observation and journal recordings.  Spradley’s (1979, 1980) Development Research Sequence was used to guide data collection and analysis.

Results:  Five themes emerged.  These were the big number of patients is a burden for nurses; nurses do not, cannot make their own decisions (but they can and do); my feeling depends on doctor’s feeling; nurses learn more from doctor; and just a few nurses can attend the [Vietnamese Nurses Association] meeting.

Conclusion:  The experiences described by the nurses and the vice-Dean of a nursing school reflect the challenges of practicing nursing in one Vietnamese hospital and the resourcefulness of nurses in overcoming those challenges.  Recurrent themes highlight the need to better position nurses in Vietnam to advance towards full expression of the professional nursing role.