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Cultural Competence in Health Care

The United States is increasingly becoming a culturally diverse society thanks to its lenient immigration policies. As a result, the issue of cultural competence has become important to this society and its importance is even more evident in the healthcare sector (Romeo, 2007, p.206). Culture has great implications for the health of communities. One of the most challenging issues that arise when dealing with culturally diverse patients is ethnocentrism in the patient and the healthcare provider.

In healthcare, ethnocentrism hinders the delivery of quality health care services to patients due to misconceived beliefs and poor communication between the patient and the provider. This happens when the patient does not fully understand the same language as the healthcare provider or in cases where the patients are illiterate. Out of frustration, the healthcare provider may fail to give all the necessary instructions to the patient leading to misdiagnosis or misinterpretation of the drugs prescriptions. As a result, culture actually leads to poor health outcomes for members of the minority communities even when socio-economic factors are controlled (Romeo, 2007, p.208).

A Community Health Nurse dealing with diverse patients should avoid stereotyping her clients. Instead, she should incorporate the cultural beliefs into the general nursing practice of her patients (Lundy and Janes, 2003, p.118). In the case of the Hispanics, for instance, the CHN should recognize the role that the traditional healers play in the Hispanics’ well-being. The CHN should then work in collaboration with the traditional healers to provide the Hispanics with holistic healthcare services. This will ensure that the patients benefit from their cultural beliefs and also from the conventional medicine which will help to cure the conditions that traditional healers are not able to treat.

Effective communication is important for CHN dealing with diverse patients (Lundy and Janes, 2003, p.120). This is especially true while interviewing such patients. The CHN should be sensitive to the cultural difference of the patient. Questions concerning the culture of the patient should be asked in a respectful manner and without any hint of stereotyping. Most importantly, the CHN should ask open-ended questions to give the patient an opportunity to provide great details about his/her cultural beliefs, traditions and perceptions particularly those pertaining to healthcare. This would enable the CHN to have a clear understanding of what is acceptable and unacceptable in the patients’ communities.

Cultural incompetence can affect the members of not only one group but also the entire community (Lundy and Janes, 2003, p.125). If members of one ethnic group suffer due to poor quality of health services, the members of the entire community will also suffer. First, the suffering of the group will hinder them from being productive. These people will therefore be dependent on others and will become a burden to them. Secondly, the entire community will suffer from the loss of resources. Resources will be diverted away from other productive areas such as education and security to the health of the suffering community.

A population program planning for cultural competency should address a number of issues. First, there is the need to have cultural competent staff. This can be done through mandatory education and training workshops or seminars which would educate the staff about the need to deliver cultural competent care. Secondly, the program should meet and discuss with patients from diverse cultures about the strategies of the program, the services provided, the view of the patients regarding the program and the priorities of the patients as far as healthcare is concerned. This would enable the organization to focus on the real needs of the clients.


  1. Clark, M.J. (2008). Community health nursing: Advocacy for population health (5th ed.). New Jersey: Pearson Prentice Hall.
  2. Lundy, K., and Janes, S. (2003). Essentials of community-based nursing. New York: Jones & Bartlett Publishers.
  3. Romeo, C. (2007). Caring for culturally diverse patients: One agency’s journey towards cultural competence. Home Healthcare Nurse, 25.3, 206-213.
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