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Importance of Cultural Competence

Importance of Cultural Competence

While the United States has become more and more ethnically and racially diverse, there is evidence that disparities and other challenges still exist. This dynamic is unfortunately present even in healthcare. One way to address these gaps is the promotion of cultural competence systemwide. Because nurses are patient advocates, they are well-placed to provide culturally competent care to improve patient outcomes for all.

The U.S. Population Is More Diverse

According to United States Census Bureau projections, the nation will become markedly more diverse by 2060, when one in three people are projected to be a race other than white. According to demographer Dudley L. Poston, Jr., reporting for PBS, by 2030 whites “will have dropped to 55.8% of the population, and Hispanics will have grown to 21.1%. The percentage of black and Asian Americans will also grow significantly.” By 2045, whites will make up less than 50% of the population.

In brief, the census bureau expects the Asian and Hispanic populations to more than double, American Indian and Alaska native populations to increase by more than half, and Native Hawaiian and other Pacific Islander populations to nearly double. Groups who identify as bi-racial or multi-racial are projected to triple. The black population will grow slightly, while the white population will slowly shrink thereafter. According to the Pew Research Center, by 2065, immigrants and their descendants will make up 88% of population growth in the United States.

Despite the growing diversity in the population, disparities in the healthcare system remain. The National Academy of Medicine (NAM), dedicated to health equity and access, reports that research “and data clearly show that structural racism and the experience of day-to-day racism result in significant and compounding negative health impacts for people of color. Their seminal report, Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial and Ethnic Disparities in Health Care, is the summation of over 100 studies of healthcare assessments for various racial and ethnic minority groups. The findings showed that the vast majority of minorities are less likely than whites to receive needed services — even when other variables, such as insurance status, age and income are similar.

Why Cultural Competence Is Important

One recommendation for closing the gap on these disparities from the Unequal Treatment report, is to promote cultural competence. The National Institutes of Health identify cultural respect as an essential factor in reducing healthcare disparities and improving access to high-quality healthcare for a diverse groups of patients.

According to the latest report by the National Academy of Medicine (NAM), titled The Future of Nursing 2020-2030: Charting a Path to Health Equity, a vital consideration to providing equal healthcare is eliminating gaps and disparities in healthcare. As part of this goal, the NAM promotes the idea of moving toward a workforce that is as diverse as the communities served. Across the board, experts view cultural competence as a way to increase access to quality care for all patient populations. It would replace the current one-size-fits-all model with a system that is more responsive to diverse populations.

Failure to be culturally competent can lead to patient dissatisfaction. According to Cultural Competence in Health Care: Is it important for people with chronic conditions?, by Georgetown University’s Health Policy Institute, one source of dissatisfaction relates to language. The report says lack of effective communication can lead to patient dissatisfaction and a lower quality of care. For instance, Spanish-speaking patients report being less satisfied with their care and more likely to report problems with healthcare than their English-speaking counterparts. When patients used professional interpreters, however, they were as satisfied with their healthcare visit as those who used bilingual providers.

Another barrier to achieving cultural competence is a lack of understanding of diverse cultures and beliefs. Per the report, Asian Americans are the group least likely to feel that their healthcare providers understand their backgrounds and values.

Why Cultural Competence Is Necessary in Nursing

Cultural competence can help nurses establish a better rapport and trust with their patients. Improved levels of communication can be a critical factor in assessing patient needs and developing appropriate treatments and interventions.

The online RN to BSN program from Arkansas State University can help prepare nurses to provide culturally competent care. One of the program‘s core courses, Cultural Competence in Health Professions, teaches self-assessment through awareness, knowledge, sensitivity and acceptance of the role cultural issues play in a diverse healthcare system. In a nation where racial and ethnic diversity is increasing, reducing disparities in the healthcare system has become a priority. Cultural competence, or understanding cultural beliefs and differences within diverse patient populations, is a useful approach that can improve patient outcomes.

Learn more about the A-State online RN to BSN program.


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