The Importance of Cultural Awareness in Healthcare
We recently spoke with Beth Lincoln, MSN, RN, NP, president of the Transcultural Nursing Society (TCNS), to learn more about how transcultural nurses provide culturally sensitive care to patients from around the world.
The Transcultural Nursing theory is the idea that to provide quality, culturally competent care, we need to be informed of what our patients’ values and beliefs are and how they may influence their approach to healthcare. It’s about finding common ground with a patient and incorporating their culture into the plan of care. We’ve found that this has helped to improve patient outcomes and address the health disparities that exist between ethnicities.
During my master’s in nursing program, I completed a thesis on providing culturally competent care to Mexican-American women. It was during this process that I discovered TCNS. I remember going to my first conference in Toronto, Canada, and discovering this amazing organization of healthcare professionals – mostly nurses – from all over the world. I was awestruck by the breakout sessions and the research that these people were conducting with different patient populations, and was inspired to pursue a transcultural nursing certification.
We are ambassadors for the most vulnerable, underserved patient populations who need culturally competent, sensitive healthcare. Our mission is to provide quality care to diverse patient populations, as well as to provide a cultural knowledge base for all nurses.
Once, one of my regular patients came in to visit because she had a cold. She told me that she opened a window too fast and encountered a gust of wind, and this is what caused her to be sick. Although as a healthcare professional I may have had a different opinion, for the patient that was the truth. So, the question you learn to ask is, “What do you think will make you well?” This patient may have already tried an herbal remedy or gone to see a healer, for example, so it’s important to have a conversation about the course of treatment. When you’re open to hearing the patient’s ideas and creating a plan of care that incorporates the patient’s culture, you’re going to be so much more successful.
I’ve written two books on cultural awareness in healthcare. If I can make a difference in someone’s life and relate to them or inspire them with these books, then that is huge for me.
Be observant and recognize that your world view may be different from that of your patients. Ask, “Where can I find common ground with this patient?” If you see the patient six times a day, you have six opportunities to ask about their cultural beliefs and values. It’s important to listen, observe and then begin a dialogue.
I would really like clinical and hospital settings to place equal importance on conducting a cultural assessment of a patient as part of the physical assessment. I think that would make a huge difference.
TCNS is there for nurses. We will mentor, teach, consult, and do whatever else is needed. As an organization, we are a group of people who are very dedicated, motivated and passionate about making a difference in patients’ lives.
Visit www.tcns.org for more information about the Transcultural Nursing Society.