Nowadays, nurses are increasingly working with patients from different cultural backgrounds. This brings opportunities and challenges for nurses to deliver culturally competent services. Whether working at a hospital, in a nursing home, or within a school, nurses must have the ability to identify differences in others. It is expected that nurses understand patients’ differences in demographics, beliefs, norms, practices, and desires for medical care and take their perspectives into account when caring for them. Cultural competence is an important component of excellence in health care delivery and can contribute to the elimination of racial and ethnic health disparities.

Here are 5 ways to help you provide culturally competent nursing care.

1. Perform a cultural competence self-assessment.

Determining your own strengths and weaknesses when it comes to working with people who come from different cultures is probably one of the most important ways to help improve your cultural competence. Several organizations offer free cultural competence self-assessment tools and you can choose one that appropriate to your work.

2. Obtain a certificate in cultural competence.

You can increase your cultural awareness, knowledge, and skills through culturally competent training, a workshop, or a seminar. Journal articles, textbooks, and the internet also offer great information that can help you improve cultural competence.

3. Improve communication and language barriers.

The values, beliefs, and worldview of a particular cultural group are rooted within their language use; therefore, language is the key to accessing a culture. It is best if you can speak its language or find a translator (an individual providing language assistance) to help communicate with limited English proficiency patients. You also can use pictures, gestures, or written summaries to improve communication with your patients and reduce language barriers.

4. Directly engage in cross-cultural interactions with patients.

Understanding that each patient is a unique person can help nurses effectively interact with patients. Nurses need to have the ability to explore patients’ beliefs, values, and needs in order to build effective relationships with them.

5. Participate in online chats and networks.

Online networking and social media can have a great influence on improving nurses’ perceived cultural competency and cultural awareness and keeping them up-to-date on cultural competency issues.

Nuananong Seal & Mary Wiske

Nuananong Seal, PhD, RN, is a nurse researcher and a consultant for health promotion and health prevention research.

Mary Wiske, RN, is a retired community health nurse.

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