Nurses work in a wide variety of settings, such as hospitals, clinics, prisons, or schools. Nurses also hold various professional roles, such as in staffing, administration, or even the military. Due to the diversity of nursing care, as well as increased globalization, nurses are likely to care for individuals with varying cultural backgrounds and beliefs.
Providing culturally sensitive and competent nursing care may seem like a difficult task, especially when patients have cultural beliefs and practices that are dissimilar or unfamiliar to the nurse. Regardless of an individual’s cultural beliefs and practices, nurses have an inherent obligation to provide equal and ethical care to all patients.
Nurses can be confident that their care is culturally sensitive by adhering to a basic principle of healthcare ethics: autonomy. Autonomy involves respecting the right of a patient to make their own decision, even if that decision conflicts with the morals and beliefs of the healthcare provider. In order to ensure a patient’s autonomy is upheld, the nurse must address and understand the patient’s culture.
While culture is commonly understood as a group’s beliefs, traditions, and customs, it is important to recognize that each patient is an individual. Nurses cannot assume that a patient holds certain cultural beliefs simply because that patient identifies with a certain ethnicity, religion, or social group.
When a nurse first cares for a patient, it is essential that nurses take the time to understand the patient’s own culture. A large part of one’s culture is how they view health and illness. The nurse must address the patient’s personal beliefs and feelings regarding their own health and care and understand how that ties into the patient’s culture.
Including the patient and developing the care plan around their needs not only ensures patient autonomy, but also allows for the patient’s cultural beliefs to be respected and integrated into their care. Providing cultural sensitivity when communicating and caring for patients from all backgrounds allows for nurses to care for patients with competence as well as compassion.
About the Author
Nicole Kraut currently works as an infection preventionist in Chicago, Illinois. She has been a RN for over five years. Nicole graduated with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Loyola University Chicago and recently obtained a Master of Science in Nursing with an Emphasis in Nursing Education from Grand Canyon University. She “was inspired to become a nurse because I wanted to work in a career field in which I could make a difference in people’s lives on a daily basis. I feel nursing is my vocation and am passionate about sharing my knowledge and experience in order to positively influence others.”
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