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 However, this approach is no longer applicable.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. The culturally competent nurses are those who are able to embrace differences while respecting and responding to the individual needs of those around them.

Amanda Bucceri Androus, RN, BSN
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