The role of culture in healthcare

 When you get into the world of healthcare as a nurse, you need to think about a few things. For example, how do you make sure that you focus on the patient and not the disease? How do you ensure that you are treating your patient as well as you can? And what about taking the health background of your patient into account? All of these are things that you seriously need to consider, but you also need to focus on the other aspects of your patient’s background.

This includes the culture that the patient comes from, and if you are wondering why and how culture plays a role in healthcare, then you need to give this article a read! Understanding the cultural background of your patients can aid you in supporting their medical future.

How do you provide good care that is culturally appropriate?

Cultural competence is key. It demonstrates how well you can interact with people who are of a different culture than you. Thankfully, most of this is simply another way to provide care that is patient-centered and not focused on the disease itself. Many different cultures and even ethnic groups can have different beliefs about their health and treatment due to how they were raised, and these beliefs can sometimes clash with traditional medical values.

For example, some people who believe in fasting, whether as part of a religious practice or a cultural one, might have issues if they are told they need to take medication with food during a time of fasting. This might make them reluctant to take the medication they need because they don’t want to break away from their cultural traditions, but from a caregiver’s perspective, if they don’t take their medication they will suffer greater risks to their health.

In this scenario, it is a good idea to have medical professionals who are experienced with the culture at hand come in and talk to the patient. If the idea of taking the medication with food while still honoring their practice can be reconciled, then that is the path that needs to be taken. Rather than simply doubling down on a health-focused position, it is a good idea to try to understand where the patient is coming from.

Overcoming language barriers 

Often the biggest issue that many people have when dealing with different cultures is the language barrier, and sometimes simply asking a family member to be a translator isn’t enough to achieve a positive outcome. With so many medical terms that might not have a counterpart in a certain language, or specific instructions that need to be followed and understood to the letter by the patient, miscommunication can be dangerous and could put the patient at risk.

Having trained interpreters who know how to speak to people and communities of different languages, effectively and with full knowledge of the medical procedures, can be a boon to healthcare systems that are dependent on working with these communities. Having confidence that the medical instructions you are giving can be understood will only make your care better.

Learn about communities different than your own 

If you have a large minority community that is regularly coming in to seek healthcare treatment, it might be a good idea to work with community leaders to discover the challenges that these communities face. Many of these communities have leaders and organizations that can provide healthcare workers with a view into what the community is facing in terms of their healthcare. For example, this could include language barriers, a distrust of nurses and doctors, a lack of understanding about what medical care and insurance options are available and other factors. If this community is deterred from going to the doctor, then you need to work with community leaders to fix that problem.

Taking the time to communicate and talk to people who can serve as a bridge between you and people who need your help can be beneficial in removing some of the myths about healthcare and getting communities access to the services they need.

How to focus on education about cultural differences 

Of course, learning about and being respectful of differences in culture can be a challenge for any nurse practitioner, but you can learn the skills. In addition to your own research, you can gain the skills through a reputable training program such as the Carson-Newman nurse practitioner program, which is designed with 100% online coursework and teaches you the skills needed to be a holistic nurse practitioner that cares for the entire patient while providing the best possible care.

Formal education is going to be a massive benefit to you, but don’t discount the power of real experience. If you really want to learn about a new culture, immerse yourself in it. Go to an event, eat new foods, travel to new parts of town and spend time with the people of that culture. You can learn a lot about different cultures and people this way, and you can also choose to learn about the good of the culture, rather than simply looking at it from a work mindset.

Don’t be afraid to find ways to immerse yourself and really have fun with it, because it can be extremely important and can also provide some new avenues for you to learn more about yourself!

Allow differences to become strengths 

At the end of the day, the biggest challenge that you need to tackle as a nurse is providing the best care promptly to your patients. While it might seem like cultural differences can stand in the way of you providing that care, if you dig deeper, you can appreciate that these differences can become strengths. You just need to make sure that you are taking the time to understand them and reconcile them with proper medical care. This is much easier than you might think and leads to even more benefits!

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