In emergency care nursing, every second counts — but the role of the emergency nurse goes beyond rapid assessment and treatment. Whether delivering primary care or life-saving treatment, emergency nurses also need highly developed interpersonal skills. In the emergency department (ED) at Children’s – St. Paul, that includes understanding and relating to many cultures and communities.

With broad experience in community clinic nursing, Tely Xiong, BSN, RN, staff nurse, brings all those attributes and more to her job in the ED. Xiong is bilingual and makes a concerted effort to reach out to families of Hmong descent who arrive in the ED.

“In St. Paul, we’re really in the third wave of Hmong immigration. The newest refugees have just arrived in the past two years, so many of them have no English-speaking skills and are unfamiliar with Western health care,” she says.

Xiong says that being bilingual allows her to make strong connections with families who are in highly stressful or confusing situations. She recalls many situations in which she has “bridged the gap” of understanding for both patient families and her colleagues. In one case, a family whose toddler had suffered a head injury was unsure about allowing him to stay overnight for observation — until Xiong explained the risks and why the doctor recommended observation. In another, Xiong was able to explain to colleagues the importance of allowing a Hmong ritual to precede Western medical practices for a family whose teenager was disoriented following a fainting episode.

“I understand both cultures, so I am happy to be that person in the middle,” says Xiong.