The Importance of Culture Competence in Nursing

While RNs have many responsibilities, their primary duty is to provide safe, optimal care to their patients. Additionally, part of a nurse’s job is to deliver this care compassionately and in a sensitive manner. An RN to BSN program expands on students’ cultural competence — a necessary component of the nursing practice because RNs need to know how to meet the needs of a diverse patient population.

What Is Culture Competence in Nursing?

Culture competence in nursing is caring for patients from various ethnic, racial and cultural backgrounds with respect and understanding. It incorporates the following:

Knowledge: Nurses should understand how culture influences a patient’s perception of illness. This knowledge can help nurses determine the appropriate interventions that fit a patient’s cultural traditions, beliefs, preferences and values. In addition, nurses should know how the effects of medications and manifestation of diseases are specific to different groups of patients based on their biology.

Attitudes: A patient’s behaviors, language, communication patterns, customs and roles within a family can impact healthcare. So, nurses must adapt their interaction and care plans to the patient’s needs without bias.

Skills: Nurses should learn ways to communicate with all types of patients. For instance, nurses can bring in an interpreter to discuss the patient’s condition and treatment options. Or, nurses can explain procedures in simple terms instead of using medical terminology. To effectively communicate, nurses must remain flexible so they can handle changing circumstances that may frustrate their patients.

How Does Cultural Competence Benefit Patients?

The practice of cultural competence benefits patients because it can reduce disparities in healthcare, according to the study Improving Cultural Competence to Reduce Health Disparities for Priority Populations.

Nurses who are culturally competent have the ability to build trusting relationships with patients and break down barriers that may inhibit proper medical treatment. This increases the likelihood for positive patient outcomes.

Nurses who exhibit cultural competence are also able to tailor their delivery of care to individual patients by taking into consideration their way of life. The study Can Hospital Cultural Competency Reduce Disparities in Patient Experience with Care concluded that nursing services aligned to an individual’s preferences may improve patient care, experience and satisfaction.

How Does Cultural Competence Help Healthcare Systems?

Healthcare systems that promote cultural competence can ensure all patients have access to quality care that centers on an individual’s distinct needs. By recruiting and hiring a diverse nursing workforce to represent the patient population they serve, healthcare systems also can provide better care.

And better care translates to better funding and reimbursement. Healthcare has become more of a service industry in recent years — patients have more of a choice of where they seek treatment — so it’s important to leave the “customers” satisfied.

How Can Nurses Become More Culturally Competent?

Nurses can become more culturally competent through education. Many online RN to BSN programs offer courses in culture competency. In Youngstown State University’s course Culture in Nursing, students explore intervention techniques for a variety of cultures by developing awareness as well as assessment and communication skills.

With a patient population that continues to become more diverse, cultural competency is an increasingly important component in nursing. Nurses must consistently acknowledge (and accept) differences among their patients in order to provide the appropriate care for each.

Learn more about Youngstown State University’s online RN to BSN program.


Nursing Made Incredibly Easy: The Importance of Cultural Competence

Nursing Outlook: Implementing Culturally Competent Care

Medscape: Cultural Competency in Healthcare: A Clinical Review and Video Vignettes From the National Medical Association

Becker’s Hospital Review: 16 Benefits of Healthcare Organizations’ Cultural Competence How to Care for Patients From Different Cultures

AHRQ: Improving Cultural Competence to Reduce Health Disparities for Priority Populations

NCBI: Patient Centeredness, Cultural Competence and Healthcare Quality

AJMC: 5 Vulnerable Populations in Healthcare

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