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Cultural Competency in Nursing Practice

The culture-based perception of the disease affects the patient’s lifestyle, the relationship between the patient and the medical personnel, and the outcome of treatment. Positive changes in the demographic situation, as well as the multinational composition of the population, give rise to particular concerns about cultural issues in medicine. The United States is becoming more and more multinational and doctors are increasingly accepting patients from different socio-cultural backgrounds. Effective nurse-patient interaction is associated with increased satisfaction, adherence to recommendations, and improved health outcomes (Markey & Okantey, 2019). When socio-cultural differences between patient and doctor are not studied and brought to practice, it can lead to patient dissatisfaction, non-compliance with recommendations, and bad health consequences. This paper aims to discuss the integration of cultural competency in nursing practice.

Culturally competent care is fundamental to the practice of nursing since culture plays a large role in shaping health-related values, beliefs, and behaviors. To provid nurses with the knowledge and skills to deal with cross-cultural problems in the clinical environment, educational efforts are made to build the cultural competence of the medical professional (Kaihlanen et al., 2019). This movement is not new, but it has been revitalized over the past decade as a result of a series of studies that have established a causal relationship between the level of the culture of competence of a nurse and the effectiveness of medical practice.

Many people think of cultural competence only as the skills needed to break down language and cultural barriers. Although this aspect remains important, it is not the only one. Cultural competence has evolved from assumptions about patients based on their ethnicity to the implementation of principles of patient-centered care, including learning, empathy, responsiveness to the needs, values, and preferences of patients (Markey & Okantey, 2019). Culturally competent nurses are expanding this list to learn skills that are especially useful for cross-cultural interactions. Cultural competence has become an important goal for practical reasons as well. Health workers in multinational countries face a wide range of patient perspectives on health. Many people present their symptoms differently from what would be expected from their illness. They may have different expectations or thresholds for seeking care, and their beliefs may affect whether they follow the doctor’s recommendations.

To provide culturally sensitive patient-centered care, physicians should treat each patient by recognizing and respecting his or her beliefs, values, and care-seeking behaviors. However, many physicians lack awareness or training in cultural competence. With an ever-changing demographic, their patients are becoming more and more diverse as well. It is imperative to train nurses to be culturally competent so that they can effectively treat patients of different cultural and ethnic backgrounds. However, there are several barriers to providing culturally competent care to a diverse population such as health disparities, communication, and environment (Young & Guo, 2020). Linguistic competence includes communicating effectively with a diverse population, including people with limited English proficiency, low or no literacy skills, impairments, and people with hearing loss problems. With cultural and linguistic barriers, it is not surprising that effective communication between healthcare professionals and such patients is difficult to achieve.

To improve communication and understanding, healthcare systems should use professionally trained translators to help healthcare providers communicate with patients whose English proficiency is limited. Researches have shown that trained professional translators or bilingual healthcare professionals have a positive impact on patient satisfaction, quality of care, and outcomes. National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS), the Standards in Health and Health Care, developed by the Office of Minority Health (OMH), is intended to promote medical action, improve quality and care, and eliminate health disparities (Young & Guo, 2020). It is a good resource for health systems and organizations to become culturally and linguistically competent in healthcare delivery.

From my practice, it often happens that women from Arab countries do not want to be treated by male doctors; however, this is not always feasible. In such cases, they may call their relative who has been living in the United States for a long time, and he gives his consent for the patient to be treated by a man. Based on mutual respect, the medical staff, together with the patient and her family, tries to find an appropriate solution to any situation and problem. First of all, nurses need to distance themselves from their cultural traditions and rethink their ideas about the world. Living in a situation of certain cultural neutrality helps to become more open towards other people. Secondly, they must try to understand the patient’s cultural value system (Kaihlanen et al., 2019). At this stage, mediation and negotiations play an important role. The aim is to reach an agreement on the approach to patient care. It is also necessary to clearly define what patients agree to and what they categorically reject.

The increasingly multi-ethnic population of the US expects an adequate culture-based, patient-centered approach to health care. There is now great interest in assessing the impact of educational initiatives on patient health. Research on cultural competence is still at an early stage and attempts are being made to determine the impact of cultural competence on treatment outcomes. The cultural competence of a nurse is an indicator of high socio-cultural knowledge and ability to provide highly qualified care to patients belonging to different cultures. In response to the rapid growth of minority populations in the United States, health organizations have responded by providing new services and undergoing medical reforms. To improve the underrepresentation of minorities in leadership and workforce, health organizations must recognize the importance of cultures, be sensitive to cultural differences, and establish strategic plans to include cultural diversity.


Kaihlanen, A. M., Hietapakka, L., & Heponiemi, T. (2019). Increasing cultural awareness: Qualitative study of nurses’ perceptions about cultural competence training. BMC Nursing, 18(1), 1-9.

Markey, K., & Okantey, C. (2019). Nurturing cultural competence in nurse education through a values-based learning approach. Nurse Education in Practice, 38, 153-156.

Young, S., & Guo, K. L. (2020). Cultural diversity training: the necessity of cultural competence for health care providers and in nursing practice. The Health Care Manager, 39(2), 100-108.

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