One of the most important ways registered nurses (RNs) promote quality care is by building patient trust. Providing culturally sensitive care is essential to establishing this trust, enabling nurses to work toward optimal patient outcomes.
In an increasingly multicultural society, caring for diverse patients is a given. But how do you ensure your care reflects individual patient preferences and values? Earning a Bachelor of Science (BS) in Nursing, such as with Fitchburg State University’s online Registered Nursing (RN) to BS in Nursing program, can prepare you with the skill set to effectively deliver culturally sensitive care to improve patient outcomes.
How Do Nurses Deliver Culturally Sensitive Care?
The Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ) defines culture as the “personal identification, language, thoughts, communications, actions, customs, beliefs, values, and institutions that are often specific to ethnic, racial, religious, geographic, or social groups.”
“Culture” covers broad categories, and as HealthStream notes, it is important to avoid assuming that patients have certain beliefs and values just because they identify with a particular ethnic, religious or social group.
Culturally sensitive care begins with awareness of one’s beliefs. As Minority Nurse points out, “nurses need to have the ability to explore patients’ beliefs, values, and needs in order to build effective relationships with them.” For example, take a patient who remains silent. Instead of signaling disinterest or lack of understanding, this may reflect cultural beliefs around respect for authority or recognized cultural insensitivity. Failing to recognize cultural norms can impact care delivery.
Using inclusive language also helps build relationships. The Linguistic Society of America defines inclusive language as language that “acknowledges diversity, conveys respect to all people, is sensitive to differences, and promotes equal opportunities.” For example, the term “siblings” offers a gender-neutral option for “brothers and sisters.”
Other ways to improve cultural competent care include:
- Learning about the most common cultures in your local community
- Recognizing your values, beliefs and cultural practices, including those that relate to healthcare
- Being aware of different communication elements, such as eye contact and personal space
- Communicating patient preferences and values to other members of the healthcare team
- Ensuring patients have a voice in care decisions, such as complementary and alternative approaches to healing
- Reducing language barriers by avoiding unnecessary medical terminology, using visual aids and providing qualified interpreters as needed
What Are the Benefits of Culturally Sensitive Care?
Culturally sensitive care benefits patients, organizations and communities. Consider health disparities that result from language barriers. Patient safety and quality care depend on effective communication at every level. Yet, language barriers put patients with limited English proficiency (LEP) at greater risk for adverse events.
According to AHRQ, compared to patients with English proficiency, LEP patients have:
- Longer hospital stays when qualified interpreters are not used at admissions or discharge
- Greater risk of infections, falls and pressure ulcers resulting from longer hospital stays
- Greater risk of surgical delays and readmissions due to not understanding procedure and discharge instructions
Nurses who advocate for patients with language barriers can help improve health equity in their communities. This culturally sensitive care can also result in cost savings for hospitals. AHRQ reports that reducing hospital-acquired conditions (HACs) by 13% from 2014 to 2017 saved $7.7 billion.
How Can Earning a BS in Nursing Prepare Nurses to Provide Culturally Sensitive Care?
Fitchburg State’s online RN to BS in Nursing program builds on students’ current knowledge and skills to equip them to manage more complex issues, including improving health outcomes in increasingly diverse communities.
Courses like Nursing in a Global Community expand student knowledge of culturally sensitive care. The curriculum further develops the ability to implement culturally appropriate strategies for health promotion and disease prevention by preparing nurses to:
- Implement evidence-based practice (EBP)
- Lead safety and quality improvement initiatives to improve outcomes for all patients
- Demonstrate leadership and advocacy that reflects ethical and legal aspects of nursing practice
Nursing is the largest healthcare profession. Nurses also spend the most time with patients. Taken together, this puts nurses in a powerful position to improve health equity. Nurses who practice culturally sensitive care provide safe, quality care to all patients, regardless of cultural differences.
Learn more about Fitchburg State’s online RN to BS in Nursing program.