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Nursing Management

April 2012, Volume 43 Number 4 , p 34 - 39


  • Gloria Kersey-Matusiak PhD, RN


Because of the nation's increasing diversity, support for cultural competency has come from every direction within and outside of healthcare. Nursing organizations' position papers and policy statements clearly state their commitment to strengthening cultural competency among nurses.1-3 But what exactly is culturally competent care, and how can you use it to lessen healthcare disparities among your patients?Cultural competency can be defined as having specific cognitive and affective skills that are essential for building culturally relevant relationships between providers and patients.4 Obtaining cultural competency is an ongoing, lifetime process, not an endpoint.5 Becoming culturally competent requires continuous self-evaluation, skill development, and knowledge building about culturally diverse groups.It's important to understand your motivation, purpose, and goals for becoming culturally competent. Important questions to ask yourself include: * What does being culturally competent mean to me and the patients I serve? * Which cultural competency model and/or assessment tool is most useful to me, given my patient population? * As I gain cultural knowledge and skills, how can I use that knowledge to improve my patients' healthcare outcomes and assist in reducing healthcare disparities for underserved populations?Accreditation bodies for hospitals, other healthcare facilities, and schools of nursing emphasize the need for practicing nurses and students to develop skills in cultural competency.4,6 Within healthcare, several agencies provide clear guidelines for providing culturally sensitive nursing care to patients.7 For example, the Department of Health and Human Services, Office of Minority Health developed 14 standards for providing Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services.8 These guidelines direct nurses and other healthcare providers in their provision of culturally linguistic care.Healthcare disparities are inequalities in healthcare access, quality,

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