5 Ways To Strengthen Cultural Competence In Nursing

It's important to foster cultural competence in nursing and across the healthcare industry for better, more compassionate care. Here's how

March 12, 2020


Nurse practitioners can enhance their professional toolkit by learning a few ways to bolster their cultural competency.

Every day, healthcare professionals across the nation treat a patient population that’s growing increasingly diverse, and they all have varying needs. One day, a nurse might treat someone who’s not familiar with the U.S. healthcare system. Another day, they may treat someone whose belief system prevents them from accepting desperately needed medical treatment. During these engagements, exceptional nurses practice cultural competence to resolve these kinds of issues for people who need to heal.

The following are five ways that you can bolster cultural competency as a nursing professional.

1. Make Sure Staff Understand Cultural Competency and Why It’s Important

Typically, nurses spend the most time with patients. Accordingly, they must understand and practice cultural competency to do their jobs. They must understand themselves and value diversity. These traits allow them to manage a caregiving environment that’s changing continually.

By understanding the cultures of others, modern nursing professionals can adjust to serve the needs of the constituents and the communities where they serve. As the patient body grows increasingly diverse, cultural competence will become increasingly relevant in the workplace.

2. Consider Sponsoring Medical Mission Trips

If you have the opportunity to participate in a medical mission trip, it may prove one of the best career experiences that you have as a nurse. However, you must know what to expect. By understanding your role and potential obstacles, you can avoid many challenges that come with the job.

For example, if an organization doesn’t vet you carefully before accepting you for a medical mission trip, that should raise a red flag. As an example, they may ask if you know the language of the community you will serve on the mission trip, and if not, they may ask how you plan to communicate with patients.

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3. Nurturing the Proper Attitude is Everything

Culturally competent care encompasses attitudes, knowledge and skills that enable you to care for people that speak different languages and are from diverse backgrounds. You must address the attitudes of people to deliver culturally competent treatment.

You must know how culture influences individual behavior and thinking so that you can plan the best interventions for those under your care. By understanding the rules of engagement with particular cultural groups, you can communicate in familiar patterns and honor their customs.

Understanding the roles, for instance, of family and spirituality for a patient will help you to understand their attitude. Also, you must have an awareness of your personal attitude to avoid unconscious bias and stereotyping when treating patients.

4. Want Your Nursing Team to Value Cultural Competency? Value It As a Leader

If you’re a nursing leader, it’s your job to identify your organization’s strengths and weaknesses as well as the needs of the patients. Furthermore, you must advocate for patients and promote systemic changes to serve the community better.

Training in a diverse environment can prepare you for leadership in hospitals, clinics and community agencies. As an example, by taking advantage of training opportunities to work with the LGBT community, you can help that group overcome the stigma people direct toward them regularly, including when they seek healthcare services.

5. Continual Education Is the Key!

Studies show that cultural competence can improve your knowledge and understanding. By pursuing training in cultural competence, you can learn skills that will enable you to treat patients from various cultural, linguistic and socioeconomic backgrounds.

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The Caring for Women Veterans program, for instance, is a cultural competence initiative that trains healthcare providers who work for the Department of Veterans Affairs. It helps to improve medical professionals’ gender sensitivity and knowledge. Educators deliver training in-person, providing trainees with an exceptional learning experience.

In some cases, you can also pursue online learning that will help you to improve your cultural competence. By doing so, you’ll learn to better care for patients, their children and families in the community.

Nurse practitioners who have a firm grasp of cultural competence offer more benefits than bolstering of the ability of a given care provider group. The benefits of cultural competence extend to patients and the communities where they reside.

Accordingly, you must work with your organization to ensure that your institution is meeting the demand for cultural competence in your community. Nurse practitioners who understand the benefits of cultural competency and have skill in practicing it can provide a better quality of service for patients. A culturally competent practitioner talent pool can deliver to the best care possible, regardless of the backgrounds of their patients.

Nurses can’t fix all the problems that plague society. However, they can make a world of difference in the care giving setting.

Because of this, institutional leaders must understand how their organization’s function fits in the context of a multicultural community. By making cultural competence a top priority, healthcare leaders can ensure that constituents receive the treatment and quality of care that they need and deserve.