Culture is one of the organizing concepts upon which nursing is based and defined. As healthcare providers, nurses must implement their knowledge of cultural, ethnic, and social diversity to develop a culturally sensitive nursing practice. This enables nurses to be more effective in initiating nursing assessments and serving as a patient advocate.
Leininger (2014) defines culture as a set of values, beliefs, and traditions that are led by a specific group of people and handed down from generation to generation. Culture is learned, shared, values transmitted, a way of life, and practices of a particular group that guides day-to-day thinking, decisions, and actions.
Technological advances have transformed our social world into what Marshall McLuhan termed a global village. In other words, we need to think of the entire world when we talk about our social environment. Computers, satellites, and communication technology have brought the world closer together and made cross-cultural encounters an everyday occurrence.
Cultural competence is the ability to provide holistically effective care to patients who come from different cultures. In nursing, there is a requirement to be sensitive to communication, both verbally and non-verbally. It is an evolving process that depends on self-awareness, knowledge, attitude, and development and application of skills. Nurses should never make assumptions about their patient’s beliefs; for example, stating that all Jehovah’s Witnesses will refuse blood transfusions is a generalization.
Being culturally insensitive can lead to stereotyping, discrimination, racism, and prejudice. Some cultures do not call elders by their first names. Nurses should always ask how the patient wants to be addressed. Some cultures would not allow a male nurse to examine a female patient so the team should be aware of this cultural issue. People may have different beliefs about medical care and treatment in the United States, and the nurse needs to offer respect and gain knowledge of the patient’s situation.
In the healthcare systems of today, healthcare providers are diverse. Nurses have much to offer from their own culture. Culture is universal and dynamic. It is taught to other members of the health care team as a matter of sharing. Distinctions between culture, ethnicity, race, and religion may be confusing. Think of it this way, you are a member of the subculture of the student, you are also a member of an ethnic group, (e.g. Portuguese-American from the Azores), a racial group (white, African American), and religion (Roman Catholic, Jewish), each with its own set of beliefs and values. So, your culture is a blend of all of those characteristics (Treas & Wilkinson, 2014).
Cultural Care Resource Guide:
Select a culture that you wish to investigate.
Research the health beliefs and practices of the culture selected.
Use the questions from the Guidelines for Cultural and Social Diversity and Ethnicity in Canvas to formulate a Cultural Care Resource Guide about the culture that a nurse could use as a reference to provide culturally sensitive care to a member of the ethnic group.
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