Cultural Sensitivity


I will be discussing cultural sensitivity and more specifically cultural competency. My reason for choosing this topic is the fact that too many healthcare providers are culturally incompetent, which results in improper treatment of patients and workplace discrimination. What is cultural competence? Cultural competence is the ability to work effectively with people from a variety of ethnic, cultural, political, economic, and religious backgrounds. It is being aware and respectful of the values, beliefs, traditions, and customs of those we treat and work with.

Cultural competence is comprised of three components: Awareness of one’s own cultural view, knowledge of different cultural practices and views, and cross-cultural Skills. Developing cultural competence results in an ability to understand, communicate with, and effectively interact with people across cultures. Awareness The culturally competent nurse is one who has moved from being culturally unaware to being aware and sensitive to his or her own cultural heritage and to valuing and respecting differences. The nurse has begun the process of exploring his/her values, standards and assumptions about human behavior.

Rather than being ethnocentric and believing in the superiority of his or her group’s cultural heritage (arts, crafts, traditions, language), there is acceptance and respect for cultural differences. Other cultures and socio-demographic groups are seen as equals. The culturally competent nurse is aware of his or her own values and biases and of how they may affect underrepresented populations. The nurse actively and constantly attempts to avoid prejudices, unwarranted labeling and stereotyping. Culturally competent providers try not to hold preconceived limitations and notions about culturally diverse people. The nurse actively challenges their assumptions; they monitor their functioning via consultations, supervision or continuing education.

Culturally competent nurses are comfortable with differences that exist between themselves and others in terms of race, gender, sexual orientation and other socio-demographic variables. Differences are not seen as being deviant. The culturally competent nurse does not profess color blindness or negate the existence of differences in attitudes and beliefs among different groups. The culturally competent nurse acknowledges and is aware of his or her own racist, sexist, homophobic or other detrimental attitudes, beliefs and feelings. A culturally competent nurse does not deny the fact that he or she has directly or indirectly benefited from individual, institutional, and/or cultural biases and that he or she has been socialized into such a society.

As a result, the culturally competent provider inherits elements in the socialization process that may be detrimental to culturally diverse patients or co-workers. Culturally competent nurses accept responsibility for their own racism, sexism and so forth and attempt to deal with them in a non-defensive, guilt-free manner. Knowledge The culturally competent nurse must possess specific knowledge and information about the particular group with which he or she is working. The nurse must be aware of the history, experiences, cultural values and lifestyles of various socio-demographic groups in our society and within his or her respective institution.

The nurse understands the idea that the greater the depth of knowledge of one cultural group and the more knowledge the nurse has of many groups, the more likely it is that he/she can be an effective nurse. Thus, the culturally competent nurse is one who continues to explore and learn about issues related to various minority groups throughout his or her professional career. The culturally competent nurse will have a good understanding of the sociopolitical system’s operation in the United States with respect to treatment of marginalized groups in our society. The culturally competent nurse understands the impact and operation of oppression (racism, sexism, etc.), the politics of the healthcare system, and the racist, sexist and homophobic concepts that have permeated healthcare institutions.

Especially valuable for the nurse is an understanding of the role that ethnocentric mono-culturalism plays in the development of identity and world views among underrepresented groups. Skills The culturally competent nurse must be able to send and receive both verbal and nonverbal messages accurately and appropriately. The culturally skilled nurse must be able to, not only to communicate (send) his or her thoughts and feelings to others, but also to read (receive) messages from the patients/co-workers.

Effectiveness may be highly correlated with the nurse’s ability to recognize and respond to both verbal and nonverbal messages. Sending and receiving a message accurately means the ability to consider cultural cues. In many cultures, subtlety and indirectness are appreciated while others appreciate directness and confrontation. The culturally competent nurse recognizes the limitations that he or she possesses and can anticipate the impact on the culturally different patients/co-workers.
In my opinion, cultural competency is necessary for any healthcare employee. Being culturally competent will allow me to provide better care for my patients as well as maintaining a more professional work environment.