Guest Blog for One Nurse at a Time: Cultural Competence

Most people are aware of the Golden Rule: treat others as you wish to be treated. However, in the current age of globalization where diversity is encouraged and embraced, the more progressive Platinum Rule now applies: treat others as they wish to be treated.

Most nurses are not formally skilled in the specialty of transcultural nursing, yet organizations are implementing annual diversity and cultural training programs in an effort to promote competence in the area of connecting with patients, families, and colleagues. Training that provides focused education on the particular cultures in a region is also important. For example, in areas with a large Russian population, training that is specific to the cultural needs related to home care, death, and dying are essential for nurses when discussing continuum and end-of-life care.

There are numerous studies with reputable agencies to prove that cultural competence promotes positive and effective interactions between diverse cultures. In fact, the organizations whose employees believe they are well educated on diversity and cultural differences score higher on employee satisfaction surveys. In this current information-driven world of healthcare, these reportable scores, including overall diversity of a company, contribute to the public’s perception of the care that is provided at facilities across the country.

Taking it a step further are nurses like Lindsay Higgs, RN who choose to place themselves across the globe in service of others. Imposing her own cultural beliefs of politics, religion, and even healthcare would be detrimental when attempting to connect with the people of Zimbabwe. Treating the local population, including the nurses from Africa, as she wished to be treated simply would not translate to her mission. Nurse Higgs needed to put her own cultural experience aside in order to interact with compassion while providing basic education on hygiene and health.

Nurses serving abroad must also be aware that they are the ambassador for their own country and, under watchful eyes, are oftentimes judged well beyond the nursing care they are providing. The fishbowl is a 24/7 viewing period and nurses must practice competence at all times and in all situations. In the U.S., it is very common to snap photos of crowds or “selfies” which can be offensive in many countries. Organizations who arrange assignments and projects for healthcare personnel, such as Nurses for Nations, take care to provide region-specific cultural education to their volunteers to avoid international incidents.

Nurses seeking additional training and education should look for validated information from reputable sources. The Department of Health and Human Services offers one such course.  Culturally Competent Nursing Care: A Cornerstone of Caring, which is grounded in the National Standards for Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health and Health Care, provides excellent information as well as continuing education credits. The American Nurses Association (ANA) has also adopted culturally congruent practice as an additional scope of practice standard.

Assuming and imposing our own cultural beliefs onto patients, families, and colleagues is no longer the acceptable standard. Through education and the willingness to respectfully ask how someone of a differing culture would like to be addressed, cared for, or approached is the best way to build rapport and trust between nurses and the communities they serve.


Sally Worthington from RegisteredNursing.orgIMG_0490