Languages Can Be A Barrier But My Heart Doesn't Have To Be

My name is Alon Calinao Dy. I arrived in the US as an immigrant with my family last September 2016 to work as a registered nurse in one of the most prestigious hospitals in Texas under Passport USA recruitment Agency. I signed a 3 year contract with them. After that, I have to decide whether or not to stay at the same facility, depending of course if I'll be absorbed by the hospital.

When I started a new job as a registered nurse in the US, my first month into my probationary went bad as I had a poor evaluation mainly because I didn't speak well in English. I love to write but language barrier is a big issue that I almost lost my nursing job. My Filipino nurse preceptor told my unit director at the hospital that "Alon, could not follow simple instructions at work." When I was with my preceptor, it seemed like I had no issue with her.


Medical Center Hospital, Odessa,TX

At the same day, my unit director talked to me at his office. He said that my preceptor complained about my poor performance because of language problems and that we should go the next day to Human Resource Department (HRD) so that I could speak with the director. He frankly told me that based on the evaluation, he was reluctant to put me in his department.

I had never been more scared in my life than what would happen to me after the conversation with the HRD director. I thought I was about to get fired at work. I thought my unit director didn't like me at all, as what I expected. I almost burst into tears, thinking that I had two dependents, my wife and a 1-year-old baby girl who depended on me. I could not sleep well at night during that time because so many thoughts running through my mind. I asked myself, "how could I pay my monthly apartment, electricity, car insurance, vehicle, and daily needs of my family if I have no work?"

At first, I was frightened when I talked to the HRD director. I thought she would pull out the contract. But she was nice to me. I told her my concerns at work. She admired me for being honest and said that the reason why I was there at her office was to help me. Because of the good reputation of Filipino nurses  at work, I was surprised she told me that at the beginning it is natural for newcomers to have language problems. She said that my unit director would give me another two weeks to improve my communication level and other issues at work otherwise he would withdraw the contract. She also called my PassportUSA agency to inform what happened.

I had learned a helpful tip from my nurse friend Lilienthal Bhomz Filio that I should not be shy. I talked to my unit director and told him ways to become better at my job. I asked him to give me another preceptor that would evaluate me. He gave me a good and knowledgeable preceptor, Arwin Covero, who had a lot of patience to teach me. I was challenged to exert more effort and tried my best  to go the extra mile. With the support and help of other Filipino nurses in the unit like charge nurse Malou Garcia and co-workers Lourdes Bernas, Samueljon Hiponia, Nenita Estrella, Norman Verdeflor, and others, I had an outstanding evaluation from my preceptor who helped me all along.

The next time I talked to my unit director. He told me that he admired my positive outlooks in life. Despite what happened, he said "the truth is, Alon, I like you because you are a humble person. You always show respect to other people and you are honest to yourself. If you assume that you know everthing, I probably recommend to quit your job. But You did a good job." 

I said to my unit director that though I worked a number of years in the Philippines, Saudi, and Kuwait, I never fail to always ask questions about the things I do not know. He agreed to what I said and told me it was "better safe than sorry." Asking questions does not mean a lack of confidence, stupidity, or a person does not study. In fact if I ask questions to other experienced nurses, I feel like it makes everything safe including the safety and welfare of the patient.

Now these are importants I learned in life: 


  • Though things don't always go as planned, do not forget to thank God, look for support system and positive people who always believe in you.
  • Do not be afraid to ask questions if you do not know something. Be honest to yourself. Just like what I said, asking questions does not mean a lack of confidence, stupidity or you do not study.
  • Show respect to other people. I haven't always agreed with people who say that you should always follow me because I'm your BOSS. Mutual respect comes first when you show it to yourself before to other people around you. A simple rule, if you are a disrespectful person, others will not respect you at all.
  • Acknowledge the problem. Let some people help you. It makes me proud to say that I work in a hospital like Medical Center Hospital in Odessa, Texas, where many nurses are willing to help someone like me who has language problems.
I know that some patients have a hard time understanding when I talk. I love my work and help the sick. This is I'm going to say to my challenges in life, LANGUAGES CAN BE A BARRIER, BUT MY HEART DOES NOT HAVE TO BE. 



My Filipino nurse friends in the US

The truth is, there is no permanent nursing job in America as employer can terminate you for some reasons, so one must be ready at all times. Earn and save money for future use.

To be a registered nurse in the US is difficult because big responsibility lies with you such as making life-and-death decisions aside from working tirelessly.The best thing I can do is to give my best shot, pray, and find a support system. 

I'm so lucky to find these Filipino nurse friends at Medical Center Hospital (MCH) in Odessa, Texas who shared their skills, knowledge and expertise to me. It gives me an opportunity to be more informed, confident, effective, and assertive at work.



August 31, 2016 before leaving the Philippines

When you read about my article entitled The Long Wait is Finally Over With Immigrant Visas To The United States which I wrote before coming to America, it's true that my family is my life and my true inspiration. That's the reason why I am able to endure hardship in life. The only reason why I am standing here today is because of the love and support they gave me, especially when I see the beautiful smile of my little girl.

It's hard to see goodbye to your loved ones in the Philippines, especially on the part of my wife since this was her first time to live in a country far from her family as she was with her parents all the time. It's hard but it's incredibly rewarding when I think about the people who prayed for our safety and wanted to make sure we were OK. Thanks to all their prayers and good wishes. 

My advice for the new nurses who are coming to the United States, be honest and be humble. Ask questions. It's true that the pay for nurses here is pretty good, but first, ALWAYS think the safety of your patient and protect your license. If there is a medication order coming from a physician you don't know or doubt about it, clarify it immediately. 

Think that a patient's life is more important than what the doctor would comment about you if you cannot follow his order. Don't worry if he gets pissed off. Let him repeat it till you understand. Don't assume you know everything. Like what great philospher Socrates said, "the only true wisdom is knowing you know nothing." 


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