This month we celebrate Asian Pacific American Heritage Month with the tens of thousands of APA registered nurses across the country who care for their patients every day. As fierce patients advocates, APA nurses fight for their patients to ensure they get the care they deserve. They are deeply concerned about their community’s health and well-being. As nurses who are immigrants, refuges, or who are intimately familiar with the immigrant experience, they are especially sensitive to the needs of their APA patients and other patients of color. Some Asian RNs speak English as a second language and can communicate with patients in their native tongue. Others have been in the United States for generations but have a cultural background that gives them an immediate connection to their APA patients. They share the same goal: to provide their patients with the best care possible so they can heal and go back to their daily life activities.
Here are a few nurses’ thoughts on why they are proud to be Asian nurses.
“It is very important for our patients to see themselves in the nurses and doctors who care for them. That is why I am so proud to be an Asian nurse. I was born and raised in the Philippines and immigrated to this country as a teenager. I belong to a family of nurses. I became a nurse because I want to help people. I am proud to be a Filipino nurse. We treat our patients like family. I bring diversity to the profession which helps the underserved and patients of color feel at ease and cared for with respect and dignity they deserve. — Zenei Triunfo-Cortez, post-anesthesia care RN and a president of National Nurses United
“I am proud to be an Asian nurse because it allows me to do valuable work that makes my community stronger and healthier. My actions as a nurse makes a difference in people’s lives every single day I come to work. It allows me to be a positive role model to youth of color looking to pursue a degree in health care.” — Gina Macalino, interventional radiology RN
“I am proud to be an Asian American Pacific Islander nurse because I can make a difference to the lives of my Asian brothers and sisters by extending them a caring, compassionate hand, providing them respect and preserve their dignity at their most vulnerable time. I can assist in the promotion of their health, safety, and welfare through my active advocacy, locally and beyond.” — Dahlia Tayag, post-anesthesia care RN
“I am proud to be an Asian American nurse because of my parents’ influence over my life. As a biracial woman of color, they always encouraged me to strive for the best and never give up. As I reach the end of my 40-plus-year career as a registered nurse and activist, I encourage my Asian American sisters and brothers to disregard those who tend to make you feel less than or feel hatred towards you. I stand in solidarity with you.” — Cathy Kennedy, neonatal intensive care RN and a president of California Nurses Association
“I am proud to be an Asian nurse because of all that I was taught by my parents and siblings: to have great work ethics and organizational skills and to be caring and compassionate while showing empathy in a close-knit community/family. All of these make me an advocate for my patients and my colleagues.” — Paula Lyn, RN, retired
All these themes of caring, respect, compassion, communication, and community health were also issues that culminated in a strike by nurses at Chinese Hospital in San Francisco earlier this week. Nurses know how important it is for patients to be able to see themselves in their caregivers and to be able to communicate with their nurses and doctors. The Chinese Hospital RNs were out on the strike line to protest working conditions that have made it difficult to recruit and retain experienced nurses.
Located in the heart of San Francisco’s Chinatown, the facility is the only Chinese hospital in the country and a critical resource for the city’s large Chinese community. More than half of the nurses at Chinese Hospital are bilingual in a dialect of Chinese, which is a vital skill when the vast majority of their patients are monolingual and scared. Using an iPad and a translation app is not the best way to communicate with a worried and anxious patient about their condition. This is why it is so critical that the hospital retain experienced nurses and improve the working conditions. Losing experienced bilingual nurses would be a devastating loss to the community. The nurses spoke up for their patients and for themselves, a fitting way to close out APA Heritage month.