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American Nursing Today: Culturally Competent Care

Jul 2, 2008
Immigration to the United States has never ceased. It is a continual process that brings a variety of rich cultures and knowledge this great country. Health care workers experience the vastness of cultural diversity more so than any other profession. Therefore, more than any other profession, health care workers, nurses and physicians in particular must be culturally sensitive to the patients needs.

As the population of the United States continues to increase, hospitals are more likely to see more patients that have cultural needs. Meeting the cultural needs of a patient is essential in treating the whole person. Enhancing a client's mental and physical wellness is the responsibility of the nurse. The nurse must attempt to use all of the resources at their disposal to see that the client receives the care that they need.

Nurses are faced with a great challenge when treating clients of various ethnicities. Hospital rules are not always congruent with the requests of patient's families. Hospitals with set visiting hours may pose a problem for the nurse who recognizes that the patient needs family members around them at all hours. Hospitals do not always cater to the patient's diet. Hospitals in Dearborn Michigan now carry Halal food for the patients who are of the Islamic faith. The city of Dearborn has one of the highest populations of Arabic speaking peoples in the nation. Hospitals had to recognize that to give quality care, they had to be sensitive to the client's needs.

Nurses may not be able to change hospital protocol, but they can make a significant difference in how the patient views his or her health care. Therefore the nurse must make every effort to ensure that the patient's needs are met. It may be to allow family to visit on off hours, or to have a plate of food brought in from home. Many cultures have a theory about sickness. In this theory, there are cold foods and hot foods. Each of these foods is used to treat a particular sickness.

Preventing families from taking a integral role in their loved ones care could possibly impede the healing process, by adding additional stress. Stress has been known to cause numerous illnesses. The nurse must attempt to balance the care that the family gives while in the hospital with the rules and regulations of hospital protocol. This can be a fine line. However, the patient comes first. To facilitate an atmosphere where the client feels most comfortable is the goal of the nurse as well as the other medical staff. Of course one would not encourage food from home if the client had leukopenia, or their immune system was compromised.

A nurse must possess the skill and compassion to facilitate the healing process from the first meeting. When the client cannot speak English the nurse should do their best to enlist an interpreter. Using a family member is not a wise choice, due to the fact that the family member may not know how to translate medical terms or may be selective in translating so as not to worry their loved one. Interpreters are usually employed by hospitals to assist medical personnel. Some hospitals have what is known as the "Blue Phone". The Blue Phone is a direct line to an interpreter of choice for a specific language. The nurse merely has to hand the phone to the patient after explaining to the interpreter what the patient needs to know.

Being a culturally sensitive nurse can bring about positive change and improve the healing process. The client will want to return to that hospital if they find it necessary, and will recommend other family members as well.
About the Author
Pass the Nursing Entrance Test the first time with our guide at Nurses Learning Center. Written by a Professor of Education for nurses, the guide has over 600 pages with details answers to every question.
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