patient careWe, as nurses, have the obligation to be culturally competent and to provide culturally congruent patient care practices. The importance of culturally competent care has been documented by numerous nursing theorists, and the practice implications of culturally competent care have been supported through evidence-based data. It is important to note that care is the foundation of nursing practice; and the practice of caring incorporates the understanding of culture. So, how do we assure ourselves that we are culturally competent?   

Being culturally competent means addressing the cultural practices and beliefs of each client. It means respecting each client’s cultural diversity, it means addressing the cultural influences that influence each exchange, and it means examining how such beliefs potentially impact their healthcare. When nursing care does not mesh with the patient’s belief set, compliance with the proposed treatment plan is less likely. The following are several strategies to promote cultural competence in our care:

  1. Include Cultural Competence Training for Employees: Because cultural competence correlates with improved patient outcomes related training should be included as part of new-hire training and/or annual competency review.
  • The Role of the Patient’s Family: In this training, it is important to understand the role that the patient’s family plays in the healing process. For instance, in some cultures, it might be customary for the patient’s family to stay with the patient whereas in others, the family might refrain from visiting.
  1. Function as a Unit: If you have a patient who has a different set of beliefs, utilize other members of your patient care team to provide that patient with his or her needs. For instance, it might be necessary to consult with case management about related care issues, or consulting with the dietary staff might be warranted to accommodate the patient’s food preferences, or it might be warranted to request a visit from a spiritual staff member.
  1. Refrain from Stereotypes: Stereotyping patients from a different culture can be detrimental to their care. It is important to be open-minded and to refrain from assumptions, especially when it comes to the provisions of care.
  1. Assess for Understanding: If the patient is not fluent in English, healthcare jargon can be difficult to understand; therefore it might be helpful for you, as the patient’s advocate, to further explain a physician’s description.  Assessing for comprehension is crucial and you, as the patient’s educator and advocate, are vital in this role.
  • Document Teachings and Intervention: Documentation is imperative because it provides a trail of teaching and it shows the next member of the care team what needs to be done. 
  1. Ask About Alternative Practices to Healing: It is important to understand what alternative healthcare practices are customary for the patient and providing there are no contraindications, it might be warranted to follow through with said practices in the hospital setting.

As nurses, it is our obligation to see where our patients are in relation to their disease process and this requires an understanding of their cultural beliefs. In essence, these beliefs are the foundation for their healthcare practices. There is a direct correlation between culture and healthcare practices. Hopefully these presented strategies will enable us to be both advocates of patient care and holistic healthcare providers.