6 ways to increase cultural awareness in nursing

With the medical industry diversified, racial, ethnic, religious, economic, and social diversity increases too.

Cultural diversity is also emerging in the healthcare sector, as doctors and nurses are expected to show greater awareness and competence when dealing with patients.

Nurses today have to cater to patients from diverse backgrounds. Some might not be open to specific treatment options like vaccinations, while others may respond to illnesses in unique and unpredictable ways.

To provide the best possible care to patients, sensitivity to their cultural background is crucial. As a nurse, the following ways will help you enhance your cultural awareness and sensitivity when treating patients.

  1.     Commit to continued education and training

Experience and knowledge are the keys to overcoming cultural barriers in a healthcare setting. The more aware you are of cultural differences in patients, the better you handle these situations.

You can attend a workshop or seminar on cross-cultural awareness. Such programs train nurses in intercultural communication and in identifying organizational practices that are culturally intolerant.

Knowing the demographic composition of your facility’s target community is vital. Once you know the kind of people you will encounter, you can train yourself in dealing with those particular cultures.

Commit to pursuing higher education degrees and additional cultural competence training courses.

Other degree programs like Ph. Ds and DNPs are also effective. DNP courses, including online dnp programs, train nurses for higher-level jobs through clinical practice.

Encountering different patients in a training setup lets you polish your skills while still under guidance.

  1.     Don’t make any assumptions

If you don’t know a culture well, steer clear of making assumptions because they can break the patient’s trust.

If your assumptions offend the patient, they could become resistant to treatment options and go on the defensive.

If you don’t know something about their culture, ask the patient. People are usually happy to talk about their culture with others if they want to listen.

When they speak, your body language should suggest openness and acceptance. This would also help you develop a rapport with the patients.

  1.     Use a cultural competence self-assessment tool to know your weak areas

Self-evaluation and monitoring help you recognize your cultural knowledge and awareness.

After establishing a baseline, you can effectively strive for improved cultural competence. You can find self-assessment tools online, or your organization might facilitate you.

These tools identify your attitude towards diversity, assumptions about different cultures, curiosity to learn about them, awareness about issues of social justice, knowledge about the impact of discrimination like racism, etc.

What medical practices does your culture favor or disapprove of? Is illness a comfortable topic in your culture? What values do you hold regarding issues like birth and death customs?

With this knowledge, you can identify biases in your views that might affect your attitude and can target your weaker areas

  1.     Polish your cultural skill

In nursing, cultural skill refers to identifying the cultural values relevant to the patient’s problem and then responding accordingly.

With this skill, nurses can collect information about the patient’s culture and assess their patient’s health problems with good cultural awareness.

This is reflected in the following ways: speaking in a way that is easily understandable for the patient, not holding biases against their beliefs or religious values, having empathy for them regardless of cultural differences, and valuing their individuality.

  1.     Don’t let communication barriers hinder patient-care

One of the main problems two people from different cultures face in communicating with each other is the language barrier.

If the patient is not competent in the nurse’s language, it can cause problems during and after treatment.

Such communication barriers might obstruct the patient’s understanding of the medical procedure and affect their willingness to consent to it.

Make sure that the language you use is simple enough for every patient to understand. If there is a language difference, arrange a proficient translator.

While communicating, listen attentively, don’t interrupt, let the patient ask questions, ask follow-up questions of your own to ensure understanding, and attend to non-verbal cues diligently.

When talking to marginalized groups, don’t refer to them with terms they consider derogatory.

Use only those labels that they use to refer to themselves. Cultural sensitivity in communication is vital because the patients all deserve to be respected.

  1.     Don’t assume that every patient knows of every medical intervention

People from different cultural backgrounds might be unfamiliar with standard techniques in your culture.

Your duty is to provide all patients the best care; patient education is crucial in ensuring long-term results, ensuring compliance, reducing complications, and making sure they adhere to medications.

Whenever you introduce a medical practice, discuss every aspect of it with the patient and ask them to confirm their understanding by repeating what they’ve understood.

Final words

The growing cultural diversity in healthcare demands improved cultural competence as well. Nurses are expected to be culturally sensitive to guarantee patient-centered care.

To achieve this, educate yourself about different cultures, assess and work on your cultural aptitude, don’t make assumptions, and make an effort to overcome communication barriers.

Change begins within ourselves; to improve cultural competence in healthcare, you need to work on yourself individually.