Improving Cultural Competence in the Healthcare Sector
There is ignorance among most nursing institutions about the dynamics that exist regarding the cultural differences among patients (Andrews 2008).
The emphasis on patient care and its relation to patient recovery has reenergized the debate regarding cultural understanding in the nursing profession. More so, this shift in paradigm has been necessitated by increased globalization and the cultural intermix that exists in the society (Miller 2008).
A lack of cultural understanding in nursing has been necessitated by cultural insensitivity among the general populace about the different practices, beliefs, religions, and values of different population groups.
The lack of cultural understanding in the nursing profession is not only reflected in patients but also in nurses (Miller 2008). The nursing staff symbolizes a melt-point of various cultures, and therefore, the profession is characterized by various cultural influences. For instance, the way one nurse may take care of a patient is not the same way another nurse would take care of the same patient (Andrews 2008, p. 198).
Most parts of the world have witnessed a shortage of nurses, and many developed countries are employing nurses from other parts of the world. For instance, Australia has been a destination for various nurses from developed countries who seek employment in the continent. From this understanding, the need for cultural competence in the nursing profession is immense. This dynamic has been brought about by globalization (Miller 2008).
Most western countries are quickly becoming a cultural melt-point. The United States (US) is one such example. Demographic studies show that patients also reflect this cultural intermix. Other western countries such as Australia, the United Kingdom (and the likes) also share this characteristic. There is, therefore, a strong need for cultural understanding, but the cultural intermix in the western world is just an iceberg of the reality.
Lack of Policies
The nursing profession has not been as multicultural as it is today. For a long time, populations have been scattered, based on a few cultural dynamics (Boyd-Seale 2008, p. 50).
The nursing profession is a mirror of the cultural diversity that exists in the community because the same level of cultural diversity that exists in the community is the same level of cultural diversity that will be witnessed within the patient population (Andrews 2008).
Since the cultural diversity that exists in today’s society is exacerbated by global occurrences such as globalization, there has not been a quick action in responding to cultural diversity (as has been the forces that have created them). This has especially been witnessed in the healthcare sector (Paez 2009).
Many healthcare centers still lag behind in formulating and implementing culturally competent policies. In fact, some healthcare institutions have still not taken note of the importance of having a culturally competent workforce. Therefore, their commitment to formulating policies that support the same is also weak (Paez 2009).
There is a strong need for healthcare institutions to formulate policies that support cultural competence because this move is crucial in improving the quality of patient care. These policies will go a long way to ensure nurses are culturally competent. Indeed, they will also go a long way to ensure that proficiency in cultural competence is entrenched in the nursing workplace.
Need for Change and Improvement
There are several racial and ethnic disparities in the provision of healthcare services. Many studies have shown that cultural competence in the nursing profession is a solution to this problem (Love 2009, p. 27).
Studies have shown that there is a direct relationship between cultural competence and the improvement of the quality of healthcare because culturally competent nurses are capable of taking good care of diverse population groups (Love 2009, p. 27).
The ignorance of cultural competence is a hindrance to the attainment of desired healthcare outcomes. This is because cultural incompetence causes many problems for providers and patients (alike). However, many people fail to realize these problems (Love 2009, p. 27).
A lack of cultural understanding is bound to numb nurses to the cultural differences that exist among patient population groups. This is a departure from reality because patient dynamics exist, and they cannot be ignored. Moreover, these dynamics have a profound impact on the healthcare sector, and they cannot be ignored as well(Love 2009, p. 27).
Self-denial or self-protection can make nurses assume that cultural differences are insignificant to the nursing profession. This is not true, and it may potentially be disastrous in the long run (Miller 2008).
People are often intimidated by the things they do not know, and therefore, they tend to resist such unknown elements in their understanding. This is a potential threat to the improvement of nursing care, which can also be overcome by instituting cultural competence among nurses (Boyd-Seale 2008, p. 50).
Changes to Occur and How they Should be Implemented
The change to cultural competency should occur at two levels: systemic changes and clinical encounter levels (Jeffreys 2006, p. 118).
Systemic level changes need to be institutionalized through healthcare systems. This will ensure the shift to cultural competence is a norm rather than an exception (Jeffreys 2006, p. 118).
Healthcare institutions which have institutionalized cultural competence are countable, and many are still joining the exodus (Miller 2008).
Ensuring that systemic changes (which favor the transition to cultural competence) are implemented is bound to overcome the challenges of institutionalizing cultural competence among the nursing staff.
The transition to cultural competence also needs to occur at clinical encounter levels because this is the first point of interaction between patients and nurses. Here, elements of cultural competence, such as language understanding, need to be considered because they are a core part of cultural competence in the nursing profession (Boyd-Seale 2008, p. 50).
Comprehensively, cultural competence is a strategic component of improving the quality of care among patients.
Cultural competence is an integral component of the nursing profession because it involves the awareness of one’s culture and how it affects other people’s beliefs (and vice versa).
The importance of cultural competence in the nursing profession cannot be underestimated because nursing is primarily a care-driven profession that requires nurses to be sensitive to patient cultures.
Institutions need to adopt practices and policies that promote cultural competence based on a recognition of cultural dynamics. This practice also needs to be supported by nursing proficiency standards which include cultural competence (for example, instituting a training program that ensures nurses uphold cultural competence in their practice). These practices are bound to inculcate a culture of nursing proficiency in the workplace.
Andrews, M 2008, Transcultural Concepts in Nursing Care, Lippincott, Williams & Wilkins, Michigan.
Boyd-Seale, D 2008, Cultural Competency in Nursing Homes’ Activities Programs, ProQuest, Michigan.
Jeffreys, M 2006, Teaching Cultural Competence in Nursing and Health Care: Inquiry, Action, And Innovation, Springer Publishing Company, New York.
Love, K 2009, An Emancipatory Study With African-American Women In Predominantly White Nursing Schools, ProQuest, Michigan.
Miller, C 2008, Nursing For Wellness in Older Adults, Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, Michigan.
Paez, K 2009, Cultural Competence and the Patient-Clinician Relationship, ProQuest, Michigan.