10 Best Practices to Promote Cultural Awareness in the Nursing Profession

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Amid a whirlwind of change, nurses continue their roles as competent, honorable professionals. Nursing ethics guide how practitioners treat their patients and peers. The American Nurses Association’s “Code of Ethics for Nurses with Interpretive Statements — also called the Code — outlines consensus thinking regarding the ethical principles of the nursing profession. A relatively new issue, cultural integrity, correlates with the Code regarding “treatment of the human response.”

Sensitivity to individuals’ societal, familial and cultural backgrounds plays an important role in organizational integrity. By observing the following 10 practices, nursing professionals make professional, and personal, choices that promote individual and societal well-being.

Sensitivity to individuals’ societal, familial and cultural backgrounds plays an important role in organizational integrity. By observing the following 10 practices, nursing professionals make professional, and personal, choices that promote individual and societal well-being.

Practice 1: Following the Code

The American Nurses Association’s Code establishes guidelines for navigating issues that arise due to cultural and professional differences. [1] Varying viewpoints commonly result in unintentional conflicts, during which the Code guides nurses in protecting patient rights and interests.

Practice 2: Intense Introspection

Before attempting to relate to an individual or group, nurses practice deep internal reflection to understand how and why their own perspectives affect service delivery — this, says a joint task force comprised of the Expert Panel for Global Nursing and Health of the American Academy of Nursing, along with members of the Transcultural Nursing Society. [2] During this introspective process, nurses think honestly about how their actions and beliefs affect their perceptions of others.

Practice 3: Commitment to Ongoing Education

Cultural integrity requires a willingness to learn about others. This ongoing commitment and process evolves over time, and increases the ability of nurse practitioners to communicate with patients and peers.

Practice 4: Treating Patients as Individuals

Professional nurses understand how important it is to treat patients as individuals, starting at admissions and continuing for the duration of service delivery. This requires focus, and a setting that is free from distractions so nurses can clearly define the needs and concerns of patients.

Practice 5: Clear Communication

With sensitive and transparent communication, nurses build strong rapport with clients. This includes ascertaining how a patients’ cultural and societal beliefs relate to their medical conditions and treatment plans.

Practice 6: Advocacy

Health care system policies and procedures directly affect service delivery. In the spirit of the Code, nursing professionals serve as patient advocates and protect patients’ cultural values throughout health care service delivery.

Practice 7: Workplace Diversity

Actively recruiting and employing multicultural staff promotes workplace diversity. Accordingly, many care provider organizations earmark funds specifically for cultural diversity initiatives and resources. Support for this activity begins on the executive and managerial levels and trickles down through the organization.

Practice 8: Cultural Awareness Education

Diversity-oriented health care organizations promote awareness by including diversity expectations in job descriptions and performance review standards. Additionally, employers conduct annual cultural competence trainings. The organizations also develop patient and employee literature and signage in multiple languages.

Practice 9: Cultural Competence as a Policy

Patient satisfaction surveys serve as a tool to gauge organizational responsiveness to cultural concerns. Using the collected information, organizations build information stores and then analyze geographic and demographic health service trends. Care provider organizations enhance these efforts by engaging with groups that advocate for underserved groups and community health.

Practice 10: Community Engagement

Health care organizations collaborate with local leaders and associations to understand community and cultural needs. During this process, key individuals and organizations participate in the planning and development of activities related to community well-being. These activities might include health fairs, wellness screenings and educational initiatives.

Mending Fences: Who Will Answer the Call?

As of 1992, the Joint Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Organizations requires that care provider institutions seeking endorsement must have an official means to address ethics concerns. [3] Health care ethics committees (HCECs) resolve conflicts in the caregiving setting. At many institutions, these groups provide guidance for ethical and legal compliance.

HCECs have served as catalysts for patient-centered care programs around the nation. The committees primarily conduct ethics trainings, develop organizational policies and consult on issues involving ethics. To date, scant resources represent the largest challenge faced by the mostly volunteer groups. However, health care ethics committees remain an important resource for upholding cultural integrity and patient rights.

Cultural integrity practices promote social justice, reduce inequality and increase community wellness. As patients and nursing professionals grow increasingly mobile, cultural integrity grows in relevance and importance.

Cultural sensitivity has emerged as a standard practice among care provider organizations. As such, cultural competence is an important practice for improving patient and community health, as well as for promoting justice for all clients and professional peers. In light of this, nursing leaders continually learn and educate others about cultural integrity as an effective means to advocate for human rights.

Learn More

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1. The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing
2. Standards of Practice for Culturally Competent Nursing Care
3. AMA Journal of Ethics