5 Strategies for a Culturally Competent Patient Care

Those in the healthcare world have certain obligations that need to be fulfilled in order to be considered effective and successful. Being kind, compassionate, and empathetic in care is the desired goal, but it can be difficult sometimes. As a nurse, you might find yourself dealing with patients, coworkers, or situations that are hard to navigate and it can be a challenge to always do the right thing. One of the most tricky things to do right is to make sure you are providing culturally congruent care to all of your patients. Not sure what that means or how to do it? Keep reading for 5 great strategies that will help you introduce culturally aware care to your facility.

What is Culturally Congruent Patient Care?

Before we discuss how to bring this type of care to patients, let’s discuss what it means. Essentially, “culturally congruent” means that you are working in line with a specific patient’s beliefs and cultural practices. Respect is of utmost importance, regardless of whether you agree with the patient or not. Every human is deserving of proper healthcare, regardless of their culture or a nurse’s opinions about it.

It is important to be aware of the patient’s culture because it can affect how treatment goes. If a treatment is offered that is incongruous with the patient’s cultural practices, they might be less likely to comply and benefit from it. It is therefore very important that healthcare providers are open to understanding and flexible in prescribed treatment.

Now, let’s get to a few strategies that will help you and the other nurses you work with bring in a more culturally aware attitude to patient care.

  1. Introduce Cultural Competence Training

Cultural awareness training should be included automatically in training for new nurses or during regular training updates for employees. Cultural competency in employees is related to improved outcomes for patients and as such should be treated as a necessity. For example, how a patient interacts with their family could play a role in their healing. In some cultures, the family might be expected to stay with the patient 24/7; in others, it might be inappropriate for a family member to visit a patient. In any case, nurses should be trained to recognize these types of situations and how to handle them.

  1. Work Together

If you have a patient with distinct cultural differences than what you are used to, you will most likely need to involve members from other departments in their care. For instance, a patient with religion-based dietary restrictions may require the assistance of the dietary staff on-site that will know what alternatives to give a patient. Spiritual staff or on-site religious leaders may also be needed in certain circumstances to aid patient treatment.

  1. Keep an Open Mind

When a patient comes in that is of a certain race, nationality, or religion, you might be tempted to recall stereotypes you’ve heard as part of your assessment of the case. Do your best to refrain from buying into these false beliefs. They will only harm the patient and could cloud your judgment about what treatment is best for the patient.

  1. Communicate

When you are discussing treatment with your patient, make sure you are listening and asking questions. You should regularly check to see if they understand what you are saying, especially if English is not their native language. Medical lingo can be difficult to understand for anyone, especially if you don’t speak the language. As you talk with the patient, make sure to listen to what they tell you and make sure they comprehend what you are telling them. If language is too difficult a barrier, enlist the help of a translator if possible.

  1. Ask About Cultural Alternatives

When discussing care with a patient, it is worthwhile to ask about what sort of treatment is normal in their culture for their specific complaint. If the alternative practice does not counteract current medications or treatments, it might be a good idea to use it in conjunction with local treatment.  A person’s beliefs and practices are linked to their healing, so allowing them some control in the decision of how to treat their ailment is a positive action.

Final Thoughts

Treating patients of different cultures or beliefs can be tough. But as you strive to keep an open mind and open communication with the patient, you’ll find that you will be able to offer them the best possible care that will fall in line with their desires. Introducing culturally congruent patient care to yourself or your colleagues will make your treatment of patients even better than it currently is.