An appreciation of diversity Nurses can deliver enhanced care if they understand their patients’ diverse backgrounds, says Sukdeep Dhadda Nursing students are in contact with patients, families and colleagues from cultural backgrounds that can be quite different from their own. Cultural competence is a strategy for addressing the needs of patients from diverse backgrounds and improving their care. It is not about having knowledge of every culture, or solely about race or ethnicity. Instead, cultural competence concerns development of behaviours, attitudes and skills that enable professionals to engage effectively in cross-cultural interactions. As well as culture, it takes account of demographic factors such as socioeconomic status, age and religion. A lack of cultural competence can present barriers to a successful nurse-patient relationship and result in sub-optimal care. In the context of nursing, the significance of cultural competence lies in understanding the impact of culture on peoples’ lives. Culture affects the way individuals perceive health and illness and is defined as one of

Cultural competence: a checklist for improving practice L – Listen and learn how patients feel about their illness. E – Encourage and empower patients to participate in decisions about their care. A – Assess your own cultural beliefs and attitudes. R – Reflect on the skills that you already possess to provide culturally-sensitive care and be willing to learn new skills. N – Never make assumptions about patients. Each individual is unique and shaped by the society in which they live. the social determinants of health. Nurses have a professional duty to protect the interests of those they care for and so healthcare providers – including nursing students – need to understand and integrate patients’ cultural preferences into the care that they provide.

Stages of learning

Developing cultural competence is a learning process that involves several steps. The first stage concerns the recognition of cultural variation and diversity,

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beginning with one’s own beliefs and the identification of any preconceived ideas or stereotypes. It is important that professionals understand their own cultural identity as only then can they appreciate the similarities and differences they find in others. Second is the acquisition of new knowledge and a greater understanding of the cultural practices and preferences of individuals and communities. This involves understanding how culture may affect health. Knowledge can be gained through cross-cultural interactions, in personal and professional environments; through literature and research and working overseas. Cultural sensitivity refers to the development of skills that can be used in practice. Accepting patients as partners in their care involves good communication and interpersonal skills and shared decision making. The final stage in developing cultural competence is the integration of awareness, knowledge and sensitivity into practice. Culturally competent students are able to incorporate their patients’ preferences into care. One aspect of this stage is the ability to recognise and challenge discrimination and racism as well as to support others in developing their own cultural competence. Culture is such a major aspect of people’s biological, psychological and social lives, that the ability to provide culturally competent care is an essential tool in every nursing student’s skill set NS Sukdeep Dhadda is a nursing student at the University of Nottingham

RESOURCES Is that discrimination? discrimination Journal of Transcultural Nursing Student Life online


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An appreciation of diversity.

Nursing students are in contact with patients, families and colleagues from cultural backgrounds that can be quite different from their own. Cultural ...
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