EMERGING LEADERS IN NURSING: AN INTERVIEW WITH ZHUOYING (CANDICE) XIA, BSN
Nursing is challenging. The path to becoming a nurse takes dedication, hard work and perseverance. For many, becoming a nurse is not just a career choice, it’s a calling. That is true for Candice Xia, a 24-year-old nurse who moved to the U.S. on her own from China when she was 15 years old to study nursing.
Candice graduated with a BSN from Seattle Pacific University (SPU) in 2018 and currently works at the International Community Health Services (ICHS) Clinic in Shoreline.
WCN recently spoke with Candice to get her experience.
WCN: What inspired you to pursue a career in nursing?
Candice Xia: I have always been fascinated by the human body. It is an amazing thing and I wanted to know more about it. This, and being someone who likes working with people, led me to want a career in the medical field. Although I have no family members in health care, I always felt as though I wanted to work in this field. After talking to a few mentors and some friends in nursing, I decided that I wanted a career in nursing.
WCN: What are some challenges you’ve had to overcome to become a nurse?
Candice Xia: Even though you can become a nurse and practice nursing in China, it is different than in the U.S., and I decided at a young age that I wanted to come to the U.S. to study nursing. This is not a common path in China. Not many people decide to come to the U.S. to study nursing. They come to study other professions like engineering or computer science, but not necessarily nursing. I experienced many challenges navigating the system, but in the end, I did manage to open-up opportunities for myself.
Once in nursing school, I had to overcome many challenges. Not having nursing mentors who also grew up in different cultures made it more difficult. There was no one with a similar background or experience to my own to whom I could look to and ask questions when I was struggling.
WCN: Wow, you left your family and moved to the U.S. on your own when you were only 15 to pursue a career in nursing. What was that like?
Candice Xia: I was very lucky and lived with a good host family that was both supportive and kind. It was certainly difficult living with strangers, but the experience helped me to grow in so many ways. It helped me become more independent, taught me how to ask questions and gave me opportunities to learn American culture. I believe my experience deepened my empathy for people. And, although it was hard to leave my family, my family wanted this for me, too; they wanted me to have this experience.
Academically, I had to learn English and how to communicate my thoughts clearly. Eastern culture tends to be more reserved than Western culture, so I had to learn how to share more of my thoughts. This has helped me as I work with patients. The clinic where I work serves a variety of people including low-income families, immigrants, homeless populations, and patients struggling with addictions. There are not many Chinese nurses here but combining my Eastern culture with Western medicine gives me a different perspective and I have learned to listen without judgment. I respect what my patients think and believe, which in turn allows us to have very open and effective discussions on what their best care might look like.
WCN: What do you enjoy most about being a nurse?
Candice Xia: I really like working in the outpatient community clinic setting. My journey to becoming a nurse had a lot to do with where I decided to work after finishing school. I enjoy building relationships with my patients and seeing their progress, making care plans, and teaching my patients how to take care of their health at home. There are more options in nursing than hospitals. We get to know our patients more intimately and see them not just as patients, but as mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, grandparents, and more. Seeing our patients in their multiple roles means we can give more holistic, whole-person care.
As nurses, we also know a patient’s health does not always improve. I feel honored to be part of a team of caring people who are there for someone at such a sensitive time in their life. For example, when someone is struggling with addiction and they relapse, knowing that they trust me and the team of professionals I work with enough to reach out to us for help is very fulfilling and really such an honor.
Chronic illness is also a reality for many people. I enjoy educating patients about ways to manage their chronic illnesses to improve their quality of life.
WCN: Why do you think diversity is important in the nursing workforce?
Candice Xia: Diversity is so important in the nursing workforce because people of different cultural backgrounds bring a set of unique experiences to the profession. Having more perspectives in nursing means we are looking at issues from a broader view and increasing the potential for creative solutions to difficult problems. Too much uniformity in nursing increases the chances that something might be overlooked or missed when caring for a patient.
Here in Seattle, the population is very diverse, which is also true across the U.S.. A nursing workforce that better reflects the population means better health outcomes for all patients. Quality of care, how to navigate health care systems, understanding cultural nuances in patients… all these interactions improve when there is more diversity represented in nursing.
WCN: What’s next for you?
Candice Xia: I am currently back at SPU studying for my Doctorate of Nursing Practice degree. I would like to do more for patients, so I want to be a nurse practitioner. Right now, I am limited in what I can do. I want an advanced degree so I can be a stronger voice at the table when advocating for my patient’s care.
I am also a member of the Pacific-Northwest Chinese Nurses Association (PCNA), and starting in 2020, I will be the chair of the community outreach committee. In this role, I want to invite more international students to consider nursing as a career and to create stronger support systems for those already enrolled in nursing programs across Washington. I also want to help create more health care resources and educational outreach information for the community. Building partnerships with other organizations to strengthen the voice of Chinese nurses in health care will also be an important part of the work I do as chair of the outreach committee.
And finally, I would like to say thank you to SPU, ICHS and PCNA for providing me with so much support and encouragement and for inspiring me to bring more diversity into the nursing workforce.