Cultural Competence in Nursing Practice


The concept of cultural competence refers to a person’s ability to effectively communicate and interact with people whose race, ethnicity, worldview, religion, gender, language, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status differ from their own. In nursing practice, cultural competence is of particular importance because it strongly affects the quality of the provided care. To help patients, nurses should be respectful of every patient regardless of his cultural peculiarities and, at the same time, they should ignore the culture of a patient. The essential components of cultural competence are skills, knowledge, attitude, and awareness.

To become competent, nurses should free themselves from bias, examine other cultures and minorities to understand them better, and constantly put acquired cultural competencies into practice. Provision of decent care is impossible without a complete understanding of a patient and, the latter, in its turn, is impossible if a nurse is culturally incompetent.

Significance of Culturally Competent Care to the Practice of Nursing

According to the definition provided by Sundus et al. (2021), culturally competent care is “the care aimed to promote social justice in healthcare through acceptance of social, cultural, racial, sexual, and religious differences of patients and professionals” (p. 3). As it has already been mentioned in the preceding paragraph, cultural competence is needed to provide the best possible service to a patient, prevent nurses from being biased, and minimize the possibility of a conflict between a nurse and a patient. Cultural competence improves the quality of care because it enables nurses to convey the necessary information to patients effectively, understand their needs, and be empathic.

Even though a nurse might disagree with the beliefs and religion of a patient, under no circumstances could she ignore the difference. For instance, it is prohibited for women who confess Sunni Islam to interact with the male non-family-members. For the female Shiites, restrictions are milder, but still, it is essential to respect their ideals of modesty and privacy. Therefore, if a Muslim patient comes to a hospital, he or she should be treated by nurses and doctors of the same gender (Stephenson, 2018).

Nurses awareness of the requirements of the representatives of this religion is particularly important if a patient requires obstetric or gynecologic care. Respect for a patient’s religion helps to maximize the effectiveness of the care and establish dialogue and, more importantly, trust between a patient and the medical personnel of a hospital.

Cultural Competency, Diversity, and Patient- and Family-Centered Care

It is necessary to note that the concepts of cultural diversity and cultural competence are closely related; the former is not a synonym for the latter. Cultural competence is about being aware of clients and employees cultural peculiarities and respecting them. Meanwhile, cultural diversity is about providing the possibility for diverse individuals to use the provided services, get employed, or, as in our case, receive medical help regardless of race, age, gender, and other factors.

Cultural competence deserves special attention in the US because the American population is immensely diverse (Daniel & Smith, 2018). What is more, the diversity of the population leads to the discrimination of minorities, including their inability to access healthcare resources. Therefore, the diversity of the domestic population is one of the main reasons why nurses should be culturally competent. The most evident example of diversity in my experience in nursing is that nurses are obliged to treat every patient regardless of his cultural, religious, and other differences. More precisely, a nurse cannot abandon the patient because he identifies as LGBT.

Patient- and family-centeredness is an inalienable component of culturally competent care and means seeing any patient and his family members as unique and respectable people. At the same time, patient-centeredness differs from cultural competence because the latter aims to eradicate disparities in health care. In contrast, the goal of the former is to incorporate the perspective of a patient into the healing process. An example of patient-centeredness is that a nurse should ask a patient which treatment option he would prefer. If a patient is capable of making decisions independently, a nurse should not hesitate to ask his opinion and take his suggestions into account despite his age and gender.

Barriers to Providing Culturally Competent Care to a Diverse Population

There are several barriers that hinder the provision of culturally competent care to a diverse population. The first hindrance is the language barrier. For example, a nurse might be willing to help an immigrant, but the quality of care suffers because a nurse does not speak the native language of a patient and vice versa. The second weighty barrier is the lack of resources. More precisely, the lack of time, money, and training prevent nurses from being culturally competent with their patients. Indeed, a hospital should invest in nurses’ education and training to raise their awareness of different cultures and improve their skills.

The previously mentioned problem of lack of time results from a hospital’s understaffing and consequent excessive workload of nurses. In other words, under such circumstances, nurses cannot devote enough time to every patient and, hence, could unintentionally ignore the aspect of their patients culture. Finally, life experience could make even an educated and trained nurse biased and, thus, it is challenging to eradicate nurse’s preconceptions.

Recommendations for Providing Health Promotion Activities for Older Adults

Nurses should talk with their elderly patients and explain to them how important it is to stay active, eat healthy food, and regularly do check-ups. Besides, nurses should fight stereotypes about aging. For example, if a nurse has a blog on YouTube or Instagram, she could use it to spread information on how to get old healthily.

Besides, nurses should not stay indifferent to elder abuse. Additionally, nurses could organize thematic events that target retired adults and raise their awareness of how to keep healthy or, at least, participate in such events. Nonetheless, considering the workload of most of the nurses, it is doubtful that nurses are capable of implementing the last recommendation on the provision of health promotion activities for older adults.


The cultural competence of nurses strongly correlates with the quality of care provided to the patients and the outcome of the treatment. Thus, it is essential for nurses to constantly broaden the horizons, gain new information on interacting with people of other cultures, and apply the acquired knowledge in practice. Effective communication with patients is critical to create a suitable treatment plan and transmit the relevant information on how to stay healthy after the hospital discharge. For instance, through interaction with elderly patients, nurses could teach them how to live a healthy lifestyle and avoid some of the diseases related to their venerable age.


Daniel, K. M., & Smith, C. Y. (2018). Present and future needs for nurses. Journal of Applied Biobehavioral Research, 23(1), 1-5. Web.

Stephenson, P. (2018). The delivery of end-of-life spiritual care to Muslim patients by non-Muslim providers. Medsurg Nursing, 27(5), 281-285.

Sundus, A., Shahzad, S., & Younas, A. (2021). Ethical and culturally competent care of transgender patients: A scoping review. Nursing Ethics, 1-20. Web.

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