By Tricia Hussung at Campbellsville University
Diversity and Multiculturalism
Another critical element involved in patient demographic shifts is diversity. In today’s healthcare system, the relationship between culture and health is central to delivering quality patient care. “Of the many factors that are known to determine health beliefs and behaviors, culture is the most influential,” according to the article “Many Faces: Addressing Diversity in Health Care,” published in the Online Journal of Issues in Nursing. To meet the needs of culturally diverse patients, nurses and other healthcare providers must become both culturally competent and culturally aware.
The National Student Nurses’ Association encourages nurses to provide customized, culturally specific care that fits with a patient’s values, beliefs, traditions, practices and lifestyle. The association promotes diversity awareness, which is defined as “an active, ongoing conscious process in which we recognize similarities and differences within and between various cultural groups.” Diversity awareness also involves cultural assessment and cultural sharing among healthcare professionals with the overall aim of understanding the complex definition of diversity, as based on the writings of Marianne R. Jeffreys, Ed.D., RN. According to Jeffreys, diversity can be based on:
- Citizenship status
- Reason for migration
- Migration history
- Kinship and family networks
- Educational background and opportunities
- Employment skills and opportunities
- Socioeconomic status
- Past discrimination and bias experiences
- Health status and health risk
Though those are admittedly a lot of factors to keep in mind, ignoring diversity may lead to unequal nursing care and negative patient outcomes. Whether it is physical pain or emotional stress, patients could experience adverse physiological symptoms if their cultural needs are not taken into consideration. Under the Process of Cultural Competence in the Delivery of Healthcare Services Model, nurses are encouraged to use the following mnemonic, ASKED, when caring for any cultural group.
Have I ASKED Myself the Right Questions?
Awareness: Am I aware of my personal biases and prejudices toward cultural groups different from mine?
Skill: Do I have the skill to conduct a cultural assessment and perform a culturally based physical assessment in a sensitive manner?
Knowledge: Do I have knowledge of the patient’s worldview?
Encounters: How many face-to-face encounters have I had with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds?
Desire: What is my genuine desire to “want to be” culturally competent?
Providing high-quality nursing care to an aging, diverse population is no small task, but it is one of the most important responsibilities of nurses today. In a constantly changing society, nurses will continue to practice using traditional methods such as preventive care and holistic wellness; however, they will also be called on to provide leadership in navigating shifts in patient demographics. A wide variety of skills are required to manage the complex needs of different patient populations. The future of the healthcare delivery system relies on the ability of nurses to refine their practice and expand their core knowledge to address the challenges associated with caring for older adults and diverse cultures.
(In case you missed it) How Changing Demographics Affect Nursing Practice, Part I: Understanding the Aging Population
–Tricia Hussung has been writing about higher education since 2013. She specializes in areas such as health care and technology, and enjoys writing informative and engaging content for current and future students.