Nurses must embrace ‘cultural competency’ to improve care for diverse patients

Nurses may have to adapt their approach to care when treating patients from different cultures, according to a new blog series.

Nurses care for an increasingly diverse patient population, so it’s important that they are sensitive to their patients' cultures.

A new three-part blog series from American Sentinel University (ASU) titled “Cultural Competency” offers strategies for nurses to do just that. The blogs cover topics like communicating with people who share different perspectives or who may speak a different language.

“Culturally competent care does not require you to change your worldview,” Elaine Foster, R.N., dean of nursing and healthcare programs at ASU, said in an announcement. “It just means you accept others’, act with empathy and adapt your behavior as necessary to respect the values of other cultures.”

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The first post, “Differing World Views,” notes that there are four major areas where nurses may need to adjust their approach for patients from different cultures:

  • Social roles: Family roles and social hierarchies will play a role in patient care. For instance, in some cultures, the goals of the entire family unit may be valued more highly than those of the individual patient being treated.
  • Specific health issues: People of certain ethnic groups may be more predisposed to some conditions than others, according to the blog. Be prepared to offer specific support on these potential health problems.
  • Religious beliefs: Some religions may place restrictions on elements of care, like diet or end-of-life care. Patients may also fail to comply with certain treatments or instructions based on religion. Advocate for their needs without judging their beliefs, ASU recommended.
  • Other belief systems: Some cultures may believe strongly in their own homeopathic remedies, for example, which can make it harder for nurses to teach self-care. Having a better understanding of those beliefs can improve care for those patients.

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Another issue that nurses should be aware of when dealing with patients from other cultures are those patients’ perceptions of modesty, according to the third blog, “Matters of Modesty.” A visit to the doctor may be a source of stress for patients who have very firm “boundaries of privacy,” according to the post.