In a world moving toward globalization more than ever before, nurses must strive to connect to not only patients of differing cultural beliefs but to colleagues as well. Culturally competent care is the cornerstone of nursing care to best reduce health disparities and accomplish health equity among all populations. Cultural competency is centered around respect and responsiveness.

Treating Patients With Respect

We all know the Golden Rule: "Treat others as you wish to be treated." However, this approach is no longer applicable. In order to improve cultural competence, nurses must move to the Platinum Rule: "Treat others as THEY wish to be treated." This is accomplished through showing respect for others’ cultural beliefs and values, and then responding to the whole individual's health requirements and preferences. This can be challenging in the fact that, based on human nature, people tend to approach issues and situations from their own beliefs and value systems, which may be in direct conflict with patients or colleagues in the clinical setting.

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Treating others as they wish to be treated requires nurses to open communication and dialogue; respectfully asking questions such as how to pronounce someone's name or how the patient would prefer to receive information, such as in their own language. The Department of Health and Human Services has published the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care to further define the practice of caring for diverse populations. For example, many facilities choose to provide video interpreter services for their patients and families to ensure a smooth and considerate communication platform. As the diversity of populations tends to change from region to region, having common forms available in the native language of the local population is another way to offer culturally competent care.

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Diversity Training Can Help

Accredited agencies and organizations routinely offer diversity training to nurses and all employees. It is important for the organization to tailor the training to the most common demographics in order to bridge the gaps between the cultures. For example, many Middle Eastern cultures value the male of the household to speak for the female patients. The idea that a husband speaks for the wife, who is the patient, may be a direct conflict for a nurse born and raised in a progressive American city. Effective diversity and cultural competency training will mitigate misunderstandings and provide a respectful and quality patient encounter.

Embracing Differences

By taking steps to understand the background, beliefs, and values of differing cultures, nurses can strive to improve not only care, but relationships as well. Culturally diverse populations bring a whole world of insight and variety to organizations through ideas, values, and traditions. Culturally competent nurses are those who are able to embrace differences while respecting and responding to the individual needs of those around them.

Ten Tips For Nurses Working With Culturally Diverse Populations

Working with culturally diverse populations requires sensitivity, respect, and a willingness to understand and accommodate different cultural norms and practices. Here are ten tips for nurses to effectively work with culturally diverse populations:

  1. Cultural Competence Training: Undertake cultural competence training to enhance your understanding of different cultures, traditions, and beliefs. This will help you provide culturally sensitive care.
  2. Respect Cultural Differences: Recognize and respect the diversity within your patient population. Understand that what may be considered normal in one culture may not be in another.
  3. Effective Communication: Use clear and simple language, and be mindful of non-verbal cues. Listen actively and encourage patients to express their thoughts, beliefs, and concerns.
  4. Learn About Patients’ Cultures: Take the time to learn about the cultures of the patients you are working with. Understanding their values, beliefs, and practices can help you provide more personalized care.
  5. Adapt Care Plans: Tailor care plans to accommodate patients’ cultural preferences and beliefs. This may include dietary restrictions, preferences for alternative therapies, or rituals during treatment.
  6. Be Aware of Health Beliefs: Understand that cultural beliefs about health and illness may differ from Western medicine. Be open to discussing alternative treatments and integrating them into the care plan when appropriate.
  7. Respect Privacy and Modesty: Be sensitive to cultural norms regarding privacy and modesty. Always ask for permission before performing any procedures or examinations, and offer appropriate accommodations when needed.
  8. Involve Family Members: In many cultures, family plays a significant role in healthcare decisions. Involve family members in discussions about care plans and treatment options, if appropriate and permitted by the patient.
  9. Address Language Barriers: Use professional interpreters or bilingual staff when language barriers exist. Avoid relying on family members, especially for sensitive or complex medical information.
  10. Reflect on Your Own Biases: Examine your own biases and assumptions about different cultures. Stay open-minded and willing to learn from your patients’ diverse experiences.