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What is Culture and Cultural Competence in Nursing Care?

Write an essay to critically reflect on why cultural self awareness is important to develop cultural intelligence.

In the profession of nursing, it becomes important for the professionals to have knowledge of two important aspects which would help to develop safe care for the patients. These are the concepts of morality and culture. Morality is important for nurses as it helps in shaping the different ways by which individual or groups derive meaning from character development, behaviours, values and duties (Mareno & Hart, 2014). Concept of culture is also important in the pathway of developing nursing skills. This concept called the cultural self awareness can be regarded as the journey of professionals which involves letting go of the personal presumptions as well as different assumptions about different people belonging to different race, ethnicity and colour. Researchers are of the opinion that once nursing professionals reach this level of self-awareness, they can initiate the process of becoming culturally competent (Long, 2016). This is indeed an important element in healthcare profession. This essay will mainly help in depicting how cultural self-awareness helps in developing cultural intelligence. This will also help to show its effect on nursing.

Culture can be defined as the customary beliefs, social forms as well as material traits of racial, social or religious groups. It also involves attributes of everyday existence, which are shared by people in different places like in one’s own work environment, among social gatherings and many others. Therefore, the nursing professionalsneed to develop a culturally competent care to individuals so that the dignity of the patients is respected (Norton & Marks, 2014). This is done by maintaining their cultural traditions while providing the best care to them. Researchers have stated that cultural competence is that attribte which describes  how  competent care is given to patients that include  proper behaviours, attitudes and policies. These support a negotiated process of providing proper care to patients across all languages and cultures (Shen, 2015). In order to ensure competent care, it is important for nurses to develop cultural self-awareness.

Researchers are of the opinion that patients, nurses and physicians – all have external and internal cultures (Cushman et al., 2015). External cultural attributes involve an individual’s skin tone, sexual characteristics as well as ethnicity. These are called the visible cues of the culture of the person. They may not represent an important attribute like who the individual actually is. Internal culture is composed of gender, birth order, politic and also how the individual views his or her culture. In order to provide the best culturally competent care and to work properly with increasingly global healthcare system, nurses need to consider two important aspects (Shen, 2015).  The first aspect is that they need to consider the culture of the patients and the second is that they need to be aware of their own external and internal culture. The later is called cultural self-awareness, which is stated by researchers to be important as it helps the nursing professionals to identify their own biasness. Thereby they reflect upon the cultural attributes that may act as barriers in providing the best care to patients (Kohlbry, 2016).

External and Internal Culture in Nursing Care

Reflecting on cultural self- awareness is important for development of cultural intelligence among the professionals. Cultural intelligence or cultural quotient can be defined as the capability of the professionals to relate effectively across cultures and thereby work accordingly, ensuring dignity and satisfaction among patients. For providing care to patients that align with the cultural traditions of the patients, it is important for nurses to understand their own cultural elements they follow and then reflect on their own biasness. They need to relate them and find their differences in their opinions and cultural likings with that of the patients (Cushman et al., 2015). This activity would help the patients in understanding the thin line between their own preferences and the preferences of the patients. They should try to overcome their own feelings and should provide more importance to the thoughts and cultural traditions of the patients. This can be explained with the help of an example. Each nursing professional needs to know about different important aspects about themselves like their idea of time orientation, eye contact, decision-making, touch and many others. It also involves compliments, health care practices, health beliefs, modesty, personal space  and non-verbal communication. All these need to be properly reflected by the healthcare professional so that they can get ideas about how to mould their own perceptions (Hassani, 2015). These is helpful in realising the attributes that they need to change to provide better care to patients. These would help the nursing professionals to be culturally intelligent and understand the specific steps they need to inculcate to know about the cultural preferences of patients and thereby incorporate knowledge about the other cultures.


The nursing professionals need to overcome their cultural biasness, recognise their own cultural attributes and make sure that they are not implementing their own preferences in their care interventions. Developing cultural self-awareness will prevent all the mentioned attributes and will ensure culturally competent care. After becoming self- aware, they can develop expertise in knowing about the cultural preferences of patients from other backgrounds. They will be able to develop three important attributes that will be important for being culturally intelligent (Ott & Michailova, 2016). The first one would be developing knowledge about the opposite culture. The second one would be developing attitudes to handle patients of opposite culture. This may include awareness about how culture is shaping individual behaviour as well as thinking of patients, understanding their social contexts. It is also important for the nursing professionals to develop proper ideas about one’s own prejudices and their tendencies of their stereotypes. Then the professionals need to be aware of their own cultural preferences and traditions that will in turn help them to properly understand the differences and develop skills accordingly. The third one is that they need to develop skills where they will provide respect the traditions of patients and provide interventions which align with their traditions. They need to develop the capability of transferring any information in ways by which patients are able to understand. They should also be able to  know when  and how they could seek external help with effective communication. They need to learn about handling situations creatively and also flexibly (Jiang, Le & Gollan, 2017).

Developing Cultural Self-awareness for Nursing Professionals

When nursing professionals are being able to develop self-awareness and be culturally intelligent, they can properly facilitate language, negotiate family environment and thereby understand patient beliefs, constructions and experiences of patients (Chan et al., 2014). They learn to respect patients compassionately, their cultures and human rights. They learn to negotiate care partnerships and hence be able to provide a culturally competent care, which is not only safe, but also ensure higher patient satisfaction.


From the entire discussion, it can be concluded that nursing professionals should take initiatives to develop cultural self-awareness. This would help the nurses to get idea about their own biasness, cultural preferences and inhibitions. This would make them careful and would prevent them from implementing their own biasness when caring the patients. In turn, it will help the professionals to be culturally intelligent where they will be able to gain knowledge and enhance their skills in treating patients of different cultures. These make the professionals to provide care to patients in ways, which align with the cultural preferences of the patients. This increases patient satisfaction as their dignity and autonomy is respected. Recognizing and acting upon the nursing assessments among different diverse cultures and different vulnerable cultures is important in saving someone’s life. As healthcare providers, it is extremely important to connect spiritually and holistically with senses that embrace immense diversity in the melting pot of humanity at this important period of human history. The power of properly understanding importance of cultural self-awareness and keeping in mind the needs of everyone, irrespective of their cultural and diverse background is essential.

References:

Chan, J. C., Sit, E. N., & Lau, W. M. (2014). Conflict management styles, emotional intelligence and implicit theories of personality of nursing students: A cross-sectional study. Nurse education today, 34(6), 934-939.

Cushman, L. F., Delva, M., Franks, C. L., Jimenez-Bautista, A., Moon-Howard, J., Glover, J., & Begg, M. D. (2015). Cultural competency training for public health students: Integrating self, social, and global awareness into a master of public health curriculum. American journal of public health, 105(S1), S132-S140.

Hassani, F. (2015). Effect of Cultural Intelligence on Self-Directed Learning of Nursing Students. Education Strategies in Medical Sciences, 8(2), 115-122.

Jiang, Z., Le, H., & Gollan, P. J. (2017). Cultural intelligence and voice behavior among migrant workers: the mediating role of leader–member exchange. The International Journal of Human Resource Management, 1-31.

Kohlbry, P. W. (2016). The Impact of International Service?Learning on Nursing Students’ Cultural Competency. Journal of Nursing Scholarship, 48(3), 303-311.

Long, T. (2016). Influence Of International Service Learning On Nursing Students'self Efficacy Towards Cultural Competence. Journal of cultural diversity, 23(1).

Mareno, N., & Hart, P. L. (2014). Cultural competency among nurses with undergraduate and graduate degrees: Implications for nursing education. Nursing Education Perspectives, 35(2), 83-88.

Norton, D., & Marks-Maran, D. (2014). Developing cultural sensitivity and awareness in nursing overseas. Nursing Standard, 28(44), 39-43.

Ott, D. L., & Michailova, S. (2016). Cultural intelligence: A review and new research avenues. International Journal of Management Reviews.

Shen, Z. (2015). Cultural competence models and cultural competence assessment instruments in nursing: a literature review. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 26(3), 308-321.

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