Free your mind from stereotypes
When I was studying nursing we were taught that we are bio-psycho-social beings, meaning that we are always more than who we appear to be — we all exist in a context. I think that this concept predated the current one of transcultural nursing — the realization that culture plays a critical piece in the healthcare dynamic.
Best practices repeatedly tell us we must always take cultural background into consideration. More than that, it’s not only our relationship with patients that we have to consider; our colleagues bring certain values to the workplace and we need to be mindful of them, too. In order to work effectively and to be sensitive to those around us, we must be aware that now, even more than at the turn of the last century, the U.S. has become a vast melting pot.
How do you go about learning to be an accomplished transcultural nurse? We should all be reading journal articles and attending inservices that will boost our ability to practice effectively, and in some areas of the country this is certainly a bigger issue than in others. But what about attending conferences, and not just meeting new people but sharing practices and immersing ourselves in information?
The University of Nevada, Las Vegas, held a minority nurse conference called “Bridging the Gap” last year, co-sponsored by the Hispanic, Philippine, Nevada and Southern Nevada Black Nurses Associations. Just a few of the topics addressed by accomplished speakers were marginalization, discrimination, exploitation, stereotypes and cultural adjustments. You would have had advance notice about the conference and the ability to register if you were a regular reader of MinorityNurse.com.
Transcultural nursing involves care of patients, too. Ellen Bosman, at New Mexico State University, has developed a webpage that can point you in the right direction for information about the practices of various ethnic and religious groups.
For access to the abundant links that she’s identified, see http://web.nmsu.edu/~ebosman/ and click on “Transcultural Nursing Links.”
There are so many ways that stereotypes can get in the way of good nursing practice — labeling a patient as noncompliant when they just don’t understand is only one. Perhaps the best way to see how the medical community can have good intentions yet fail completely to help is by case study. I suggest reading The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down by Anne Fadiman, about the Hmong people of Southeast Asia adjusting to life in California in the post-Vietnam era.
We all believe that we do our best for our patients, but brushing up on our knowledge of transcultural issues will help us become even more accomplished nurses.
Christine Contillo RN, BSN, has worked as a nurse since 1979 and has written extensively for various nursing publications as well as The New York Times.
This article is from workingnurse.com.