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Cultural Competence in Population-Based Public Health Nursing

Like many professions, nursing is one where an individual encounters various groups of people within a day. These individuals come from different ethnic and cultural groups that deserve the same amount of care as anyone else.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), health and human service organizations recognize the need to enhance services for culturally and linguistically diverse populations. However, providing culturally and linguistically appropriate healthcare services requires an understanding of cultural competence.

Cultural and linguistic competence is a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that comprise a system, agency or group of professionals that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations. However, building communal cultural competence is a developmental process that evolves over an extended period. As a result, both individuals and organizations are at various levels of awareness, knowledge and skills along the cultural competence continuum.

At the core of cultural competence is integrating knowledge about individuals and groups of people into specific standards, policies, practices and attitudes used in appropriate cultural settings to increase the quality of services.

The Importance of Cultural Competence

Cultural competence is needed within the healthcare profession because it requires that organizations:

  • Have a defined set of values and principles and demonstrate behaviors, attitudes, policies, and structures that enable them to work effectively cross-culturally
  • Have the capacity to (1) value diversity, (2) conduct self-assessment, (3) manage the dynamics of difference, (4) acquire and institutionalize cultural knowledge, and (5) adapt to diversity and the cultural contexts of the communities they serve
  • Incorporate the above in all aspects of policy-making, administration, practice, and service delivery while systematically involving consumers, key stakeholders, and communities

Practicing cultural competence in nursing helps health professionals make meaningful connections with their patients to improve health outcomes and deliver the highest standard of care. It is vital to patient care because it has the following effects:

  1. Improved Patient Outcomes

Cultural competence can improve health outcomes for patients. For example, effective communication strategies can help nurses explain treatments and medications, collect accurate medical information, and engage patients in asking questions to clarify understanding and develop trust.

  1. Increased Involvement

Patients who feel they can communicate effectively with their medical team may feel empowered to self-advocate for their needs. They may also be more likely to develop trust in the healthcare system, encouraging them to continue seeking care as needed.

  1. Equity Promotion

In healthcare, equity refers to providing the best quality of care to all people based on their individual needs. When nurses understand how their patients’ cultural backgrounds shape their perception of the healthcare industry and their medical care needs, nurses can work to create healthcare systems that fulfill the requirements of all people.

This ties in with the concept of population health, defined as an opportunity for healthcare systems, agencies, and organizations to work together in order to improve the health outcomes of the communities they serve.

Role of Nursing Leaders

Nursing leaders have the important role of helping advance cultural competence in their organizations and those they interact with in population/public health environments.

Nurses must understand patients’ differences in demographics, beliefs, norms, practices, and desires for medical care and take their perspectives into account when caring for them.

Cultural competence is an essential component of excellence in healthcare delivery and can contribute to eliminating racial and ethnic disparities. However, to improve and sustain the cultural competency of healthcare professionals, leaders must offer training throughout a professional’s career, tailor training to account for individual and organizational contexts and involve key stakeholders in the design, implementation, and evaluation of the programs.

Nursing leaders should encourage fellow nurses to undergo cultural competency training in order to better understand and serve the surrounding community. Training is a significant opportunity to start a general and open discussion about cultural issues and conviction, which workers typically avoid discussing — and which is not part of the general work culture.

Positively Impact Society With an MSN Degree

One way to implement cultural competency skills as a nurse is to pursue advanced nursing education in public and population health and earn a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree. Those who enroll in the Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) in Nursing Public & Population Health online program at Worcester State University will improve community-wide health initiatives by sharing unique nursing expertise and perspective.

In as few as 18 months, nurses can complete the program and build community-based intervention models in the workforce that are needed to lead the way toward a healthier society.

Worcester State University’s program prepares students to “positively impact societal healthcare outcomes” by exploring culturally sensitive community-based interventions, multidisciplinary care, cross-cultural health, and health systems transformation.

Each student will cultivate the skills needed to become a compassionate and effective advocate for their community.

Learn more about Worcester State University’s online MSN Public & Population Health program.

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