Since moving to another country nearly seven years ago, I have had the privilege of absorbing another culture entirely and in that time it has made me a better nurse and citizen of the world. It has taught me how to embrace differences and given me a rare glimpse into the challenges of being an immigrant. I have made friends and cared for patients from all over the world. In that time, there is one thing I have learned. We may seem different, but we are all the same.
The U.S. was founded on the diversity each citizen brings to it. We are a melting pot of language, culture, and nationality. This country, more than any other, has always embraced diversity. Our patients and coworkers come from all backgrounds. To better care for our patients and understand our coworkers, it is important to try to understand where someone is coming from. The following are just a few tips for being a more culturally aware nurse.
If your area has a large population of Hispanics, learn where the majority are from. Learn a bit about the culture. It makes for not only good conversation, but can give you insight in how an individual faces pain, makes life decisions, or grieves. Perhaps taking a medical Spanish course would be helpful. The simple act of making an effort can break the barrier of communication. Meet your patients or coworkers halfway.
Ask if you are unsure. Your patient or coworker would be happy to share common customs, foods, or traditions from back home. How do they typically make decisions with regard to healthcare? Opening up a conversation out of curiosity breaks down the wall that divides people. It establishes trust.
Share a bit about where you are from with your patients or coworkers. It breaks barriers. It shows that you are open. It further establishes trust. It shows that while you may come from different backgrounds, you are no different than anyone else.
Respect our differences and realize we are all really the same. Avoid the attitude of us verses them. Try meeting each other half way. We may speak a different language, eat different foods, and grieve in different ways, but we are all the same. All we want is to be understood and to feel part of something. It is what makes us human.
Lori is an American nurse and yogini living in Gothenburg, Sweden. She contributes regularly to Mighty Nurse, AWHONN, American Nurse Today, and has been featured in The Huffington Post. Follow her adventures through her blog, Neonurse, or on Instagram.