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Jun 14

Cultural Awareness in Nursing

i_nurse_femaleIn a time when nurses of all ethnicity and cultural backgrounds are needed to care for an equally diverse population of patients, the health care community is also working to create more diversity in the nursing workforce.

There are some groups which contend that the more ethnically diverse a nursing workforce is in a community, the fewer discrepancies exist in patient care.   This would, of course, be difficult to prove, but nevertheless, the current supply of nurses is being shored up for the upcoming projected nursing shortage, by any means possible.

Nursing schools are doing their best to recruit instructors so they can accept and graduate more students. Another strategy is bringing in nurses from other countries as a way of filling staffing gaps while also attempting to diversify America’s nursing workforce.

The challenge with this strategy is that, just because a nurse from overseas shares the same root ethnicity as specific populations here in the states, it does not mean that they share the same culture.  For instance, nurses from Latin American countries do not necessarily represent an exact cultural match to the broad range of Hispanic American populations and African does not mean African American. The beauty of culture is often found in its depth and diversity.

Since nurses have the most direct contact and communication with patients, cultural awareness is a very important part of nursing care. Creating a diverse nursing workforce is certainly an admirable goal, but no matter what your culture or ethnicity is, there are ways you can provide culturally competent care to all your patients.

First, there is the cultural awareness that comes from understanding your own culture and any biases of other cultures.  Second, there is the basic information about the cultures in your community and work area that you can establish by doing your homework. Finally there are the cultural factors that impact the care that you offer your patients, such as religion, home remedies, communication, family roles, personal space and food preferences that vary by culture.

In an ideal world, our health care system could boast a nursing workforce packed with skilled, compassionate, competent and diverse nurses that represent America’s equally diverse population. As our health care system works to buffer the population of current and future nurses, it is fortunate that all nurses can add cultural awareness to their existing list of talents.

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