Every single day in the lives of nurses, they encounter culturally diverse clients. As they work in a foreign land or even in their home country, they meet these clients who have different sets of traditions and religious beliefs. These practices do not only affect the patients’ perspective about their illness but it may possibly affect the efficiency of care as it influences the way we are expected to provide various interventions to address the patient’s concerns.
Religion and culture are undeniably the most influential factors that have significant impact in a person’s belief about health. Some patients may refuse the treatment because it violates their religious principles. Hence, doing this treatment is equivalent to a sinful act. However, their practices may also bring harmful effects to their health. Thus, it is necessary for nurses to know these religious practices for them to have the knowledge on how to effectively deal with these clients taking into consideration their beliefs and practices.
The basis of transcultural nursing is basically derived from Madeleine Leininger’s theoretical framework which states that nursing is “focused upon differences and similarities among cultures with respect to human care, health, and illness based upon the people’s cultural values, beliefs, and practices, and to use this knowledge to provide cultural specific or culturally congruent nursing care to people” (Leininger, 1991).
Knowing that our patients may come from different racial or ethnic groups, we have to understand their practices not just to make our work fast and convenient. Rather, it is also considered as a means of prioritizing our patient’s welfare.
Being a globally competitive nurse starts from our goal of providing individualized care. You know very well that every patient is distinct from one another. We cannot settle in the mediocre by following a standardized care. Putting their culture before anything else prior to providing any intervention will help us establish rapport with our clients.
Culture as a significant determinant of health is classified into cultural and biological factors. Knowing these provide nurses with a background on how they will plan for an individualized nursing care. Moreover, these will help them deal with their patients holistically.
Cultural factors affect our health and strengthen our belief system on how we should address every situation we encounter. It affects both our religion and practices as well as the way we deal with various illnesses. For example, if a person is brought up as a Jehovah’s Witness, he is expected to refuse blood transfusion even if it would put his life at risk. However, we may also consider other alternative to save our patient. If applicable and in some cases, plasma expanders are infused instead of transfusing blood.
Let us take Chinese health practices as another example. Chinese people believe in the use of traditional medicine. They consider taking herbal medicines first before taking artificial medications. They believe that medications should only be taken at the onset of symptoms. Medications should be discontinued after the relief of symptoms. Another Chinese health belief is that some illnesses are caused by supernatural forces, witchcraft and sorcery. Hence, they refuse to seek medical attention. They also believe in the so-called ‘karma’ causing severe illness.
Culture may also act as a source of communication barrier. Communication is a significant aspect of nursing. It helps us establish interpersonal relationships with our clients. Patients are more open to verbalize their feelings if they know that their nurses understand them. We also need to be aware of our client’s nonverbal cues such as facial grimace and hand gestures because it would definitely help us in addressing their concerns.
What are our roles as nurses? Our primary role is to understand them. We, nurses, should adjust to the situation. Allowing our patients adapt to our culture is an inappropriate, unpractical and uncompassionate response.
On the other hand, biological factors involve genetic variations among different groups. These are variations in the body structure of our patients. Hence, it affects the possibility of acquiring certain disease. For example, sickle-cell anemia is common among African descent and not among the whites. While phenylketonuria (PKU) is common among Northern European descent.
Hence, knowing the demographic profile of our patients should not be taken for granted. It is not just an additional information on our health assessment tools. It also plays an essential role in providing accurate diagnosis and nursing interventions.
With this, we may conclude that transcultural nursing is really a significant aspect of our profession. Understanding our patient’s perspective about health will also help us avoid stereotyping and misapplications. Cultural competence is beyond what we see in our nursing books. It is beyond knowing their cultural beliefs. Instead, cultural competence is listening to them and understanding their way of living and the applying culturally appropriate and individualized nursing care.