How Cultural Awareness Can Improve Your Nursing Practice

Standard social norms are almost nonexistent in culturally diverse communities where “normal” can vary from house to house in a single neighborhood. As the United States becomes more diverse, cultural awareness in nursing has become an increasingly important subject in nursing schools and hospitals. It is now a key component in Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) programs.

Health Promotion and Disease Prevention

Because nurses are often the first providers that patients meet in the U.S. healthcare system, it is important to promote cultural awareness in nursing. Nurses are in the perfect position to teach positive health behaviors; those who possess cultural awareness can more easily initiate positive dialogue. For example, people who have recently moved to the U.S. may not have been exposed to the extensive anti-smoking campaigns over the last few decades and might not understand the full extent of negative side effects related to smoking.

Many case studies exist that can help nurses better understand how an individual’s culture can affect nursing practice.

Example: Culturally Driven Alternative Healing

In one case study, a nurse treating a young patient with a fever noticed that she had fresh wounds on her back. Rather than assume the girl had been abused, the nurse asked the mother about healing techniques she had attempted before bringing her daughter to the hospital. The mother responded that she had used a technique called coining, which involves rubbing hot oil on a coin to break the skin along the back in order to alter the winds associated with fever. Through careful communication techniques, the nurse acknowledged the coining technique, but was able to alter future behavior to avoid skin penetration and encourage the administration of antibiotics.

Example: Recovery Interference from Different Perspective

In another case study, a Native American woman with a traumatic brain injury was not responding to stimuli, and the clinical team assumed she was in a comatose state. After careful discussion with the family, the care team learned that the patient was perfectly lucid but was avoiding communication because of her mistrust of people with white skin. The family performed a healing ceremony, and following the ceremony, the patient thanked her family. This case illustrates the importance of cultural awareness in nursing and how it can lead to a more accurate diagnosis.

Cultural awareness in nursing involves the understanding that the end goal is not to change the behavior or perspective of a patient, but to deliver the best healthcare possible. Some researchers promote an approach called ETHNIC (Explanation, Treatment, Healers, Negotiate, Intervention and Collaboration). Nurses learn about techniques such as these and more in RN to BSN programs.

Learn more about the CSUSM online RN to BSN program.


Delivering Patient-Centered Care in the Midst of a Cultural Conflict: The Role of Cultural Competence

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