Nursing from a cultural perspective

Stories - CaduceusCompassionate and respectful nursing care includes nonjudgmental consideration of patients and families cultural, religious and spiritual practices while in the hospital or healthcare setting.

What does this sensitivity look like from a caregiving perspective? Let’s start with any language barrier.

It is critical for the nurse during an admission, before an important procedure or surgery or during an assessment, to be able to obtain and communicate accurate health information to all parties – including the patient, family member, physician and other members of the health care team. Without accurate and timely communication, the healthcare process breaks down.

Some tools for this accurate communication include: interpreter phones, Marti interpreter screens and live interpreters.

The interpreter phone is for two parties, with a translator who is trained in medical terminology.

He or she is the “interpreter” between the healthcare professional and the patient.

Use of the phone allows accurate information to be communicated and obtained, and for questions to be asked and answered. The Marti (which stands for My Accessible Real Time Trusted Interpreter), is an internet connected touch screen computer monitor attached to an upright mobile platform which can be moved to any patient room in the hospital.

Simply touch the start button and request the needed language.

Live interpreters are also available to be paged within most hospital settings as well. Some rules to remember regarding language and interpretive services are: family members are not to be used as interpreters – especially for admissions, discharges, pre procedure or surgical preparations or in answering any healthcare or hospital related questions or teaching.

In order for accurate communication to take place, a medically trained interpreter must be used. Nursing documentation should be completed when interpreter and language services are used.

The use of these tools validates the patient, their culture and critical communication processes, and is a valuable and important part of everyday nursing practice.

Other ways nurses can enhance respect, cultural awareness and sensitivity, are by using patient education curriculum printed in the patient’s own language.

Most hospitals have this printing option available. Special food preparation can be requested from the dining room. Or the family may be allowed to bring in home cooked traditional ethnic food. Respect can be given by observing who the family spokesperson is, how information is communicated within the family and sensing, through observation and listening, what are the important patient and family values to be aware of when providing care.

It is also important to refrain from the use of stereotyping. Be open to learning new things from your patients and for your judgments to be challenged. The nurse should also allow and respect religious observances, music, rituals and religious objects.

Once the family and patient detect your genuine attempts to validate and respect them, a level of trust will be established, and communication will improve. This is when real rapport is established and excellent patient care is given. To neglect this area of patient care is to neglect treating the whole person.

What a patient believes, the language they speak, their cultural practices, rituals and traditions are just as important as any other aspect of nursing care. How are these woven into your nursing practice?

Another resource available is the use of the nursing cultural practices book –Culture and Nursing Care: A Pocket Guide, published by The School of Nursing – University California, San Francisco, is circulating in a lot of hospitals currently.

The book points out general rules of thumb to follow when taking care of patients from a different cultural perspective.

No one is an expert in every possible aspect of competent cultural care, but awareness, sensitivity, and openness to learn goes a long way in any patient care setting.

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