Legal / Ethical | Nursing Practices

Cultural Competence In Nursing

  • Cultural competence in nursing relates to awareness of patient’s cultural beliefs and practices and respecting those beliefs as you navigate their plan of care. 
  • Demonstrating cultural competence in nursing includes conducting an assessment, analyzing various considerations, and ultimately demonstrating or accommodating those beliefs throughout your nursing practice. 
  • Practicing cultural competence in nursing makes you a better nurse-patient advocate because of a true mutual respect between nurse and patient.

Peace Ogbuagu

RN, BSN, Legal Nurse Consultant

May 20, 2022
Simmons University

Nurses care for individuals from various cultures, and not being aware and respecting patients’ cultural preferences and beliefs could make the patient see the nurse as insensitive and possibly incompetent.  

Most behavioral traits seen in patients are partly influenced by their cultural background, therefore a nurse must be aware of cultural trends while respecting patient’s preferences; this is the foundation of evidence-based practice. The method that a nurse can use to gather cultural information from patients is using a culture assessment tool or questionnaire. 

What is Cultural Competence in Nursing?

Cultural competence can therefore be defined as developing an awareness of one’s own existence, thoughts, beliefs, and environment without letting it have an undue influence on those from other backgrounds. 

Cultural competence in nursing, is taking all the above, and applying it to your nursing decisions and care plan. 

Having regards for one’s culture is an integral aspect of providing high-quality healthcare that meets patients’ needs and health professionals must respond to changes in patient’s demographics to provide culturally sensitive care.  

Each patient is a unique individual that has unique characteristics that ties into their culture and the ability of the nurse to explore and understand this enhances effective nurse-patient relationship and better patient outcome.  

For a nurse to be a true patient advocate, the nurse must display cultural competence in nursing. To provide effective and sensitive healthcare for patients of other cultures, the nurse must exhibit empathy, flexibility and a commitment to continuous learning.


cultural competence in nursing pratice

Cultural Competence in Nursing Assessments

Thorough cultural assessment is the first and most important method a nurse can obtain cultural information from a patient to ensure that the plan of care is appropriate to suit the patient’s needs.  

This involves asking questions about family dynamics, as in who is the sole decision-maker in the family so that the family head will be involved in discussing the course of treatment. Some cultures consider it rude when health decisions are made in the absence of a particular family member that is the head. 

The social and cultural factors that might affect an individual’s health should be considered and incorporated into the plan of care. Understanding a patient’s culture can help the nurse implement cultural competence in nursing.  

It is crucial to take note of certain family conditions that could affect patient’s individualized plan of care, conditions such as divorce, involvement of extended family members, power of attorney, end-of-life wishes, paternity, adoption and child custody.

cultural assessment in nursing assessment

Cultural Competence in Nursing Considerations

Finding ways to understand and connect with the patient is essential to providing better nursing care, but it could be challenging when there is a language barrier. A translator should be used in this instance to bridge the communication gap.  

The nurse should take all of these elements into consideration and perform an adequate assessment to gather such details and customize the patient’s plan of care to suit their needs.

Demonstrating Cultural Competence in Nursing


Some of the ways a nurse can demonstrate cultural competency in nursing includes not making assumptions about a patient’s culture, beliefs, level of literacy and values.  

Every patient has the right to know the details of their care therefore it is necessary to give a detailed explanation of plan of care and medical jargons, and in case of language barrier, use an interpreter and ensure that patient understands.  

Another way to demonstrate cultural competency in nursing is by asking about alternative methods of healing. Certain cultures have a firm belief in this and some of these herbal medications can have harmful interactions with modern medicine, so it’s important to ask about these alternative treatments and make adjustments in a patient’s plan of care.  


Also, withholding judgements especially when the nurse observes any practice that does not conform to his/her personal beliefs and professional policy.  

For instance, some cultures place more value on the extended family and patient’s family members are always in patient’s room to show their love or fulfill their duty. This could be an issue for the nurse who doesn’t why there are many visitors in the patient’s room.

Having a knowledge of the different cultures and asking questions will help the nurse to accommodate these visitors whenever possible, understanding that it is part of the culture

Accommodating and educating the patients can help the healthcare provider to demonstrate care that is compatible with client’s culture. The goal of the interaction between the nurse and the patient is for the patient to return to the best state of health no matter the patient’s background.

cultural competence in nursing education

The Bottom Line

In conclusion, to demonstrate cultural competence in nursing, we as nurses need to understand patients’ background, beliefs and what ideas they have about illness and wellness and be committed to cooperating with the patient in delivering quality healthcare.

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