Embracing Cultural Competency in Nursing: A Key to Better Healthcare

Posted on May 24, 2024 by Simcha Zevit

Updated May 24, 2024

Cultural competence is the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver healthcare services that meet the diverse needs of patients. It involves providing personalized and patient-centered care that meets the social, cultural and linguistic needs of people fromNurse caring for elderly patient Blue Brushstroke-1 varied ethnic and racial groups, religious traditions, age groups, socioeconomic backgrounds and gender and sexual identities. Achieving this requires cultural humility—an interpersonal stance that reflects self-reflection, openness to and commitment to lifelong learning from others.

As a nurse, it’s likely that your work brings you into contact with patients from across this diverse spectrum, and that you’ve had some experiences in which cultural factors had a direct impact on how you delivered care. In the mosaic of modern healthcare, cultural competence and cultural humility are cornerstones of effective nursing practice.

Importance of Cultural Competence for Nurses

Cultural competency can have a direct impact on patient satisfaction and outcomes of care. Research indicates that when healthcare providers are culturally competent, patients experience better communication, increased satisfaction and higher adherence to treatment plans.

For example, consider a scenario where a nurse interacts with a patient who speaks limited English and comes from a cultural background where family involvement in healthcare decisions is highly valued. In this situation, the nurse can demonstrate cultural competency by utilizing interpretation services to communicate effectively with the patient and engaging the family in discussions about the care plan and treatment options. This approach helps the patient feel more understood, supported and empowered to participate in their own healthcare decisions.

Cultural humility is essential for addressing healthcare disparities. Individuals from diverse cultural backgrounds have unique health beliefs and practices that impact their healthcare-seeking behaviors, treatment adherence and overall health outcomes. By being culturally competent, nurses can bridge gaps, promote health equity and deliver patient-centered care tailored to individual needs.

Challenges of Cultural Competency

Cultural competence can also pose several challenges for nurses due to the diversity of cultures in healthcare settings. Each culture has its own set of values, norms and communication styles, making it challenging for nurses to be proficient in every cultural group they encounter.

Additionally, cultural competence is not a one-time achievement but rather a lifelong journey of learning and self-reflection, requiring continuous education and exposure to diverse populations.

Lastly, unconscious bias can break down cultural competence. Nurses, like all individuals, are influenced by their own cultural backgrounds, experiences and societal norms, which can shape their perceptions and interactions with patients. Not being aware of these biases may lead to stereotyping, prejudice and discriminatory behavior, undermining culturally sensitive care.

Strategies to Enhance Cultural Competency

There are many strategies nurses can employ to enhance their cultural competence. A recent article in Nurse Journal describes four components of culturally competent care that nurses can cultivate.

Countless tools and classes are readily available online. You can also find resources through your organization, and through VITAL Worklife (see VITAL WorkLife Resources below).


Nurses put their awareness, attitude and knowledge into practice by repeating culturally competent behaviors until they become habitual. These behaviors include:

  • effective and respectful communication with both patients and families,
  • asking culturally sensitive questions and actively listening to patient’s perspectives,
  • ability to access resources and use them appropriately when unsure of cultural norms that may affect your care,
  • mediate and manage conflict and many more.

Resources Available  Through VITAL WorkLife

  • VITAL WorkLife Nurse Peer Coaching: Peer Coaching is an effective strategy for enhancing cultural competence, providing a space for nurses to exchange knowledge and experiences related to diverse patient care. By engaging in peer coaching, nurses can develop a deeper awareness of cultural nuances and learn adaptive strategies directly from a peer who understands their unique needs.

  • VITAL WorkLife Counseling: By engaging in counseling, nurses can enhance their self-awareness, explore their own cultural biases and develop the skills needed to navigate cultural differences in patient care. This process not only benefits nurses but also contributes to promoting health equity and improving patient outcomes.

  • VITAL WorkLife Member Website: Your member website includes resources, such as articles or seminars on building cultural competence to equip you with the necessary tools for success with cross-cultural communication.

In conclusion, cultural competence is not merely a desirable trait but an essential skill for nurses in modern healthcare. By understanding and respecting the cultural backgrounds of patients, nurses can foster trust, bridge health disparities and deliver patient-centered care. While cultural competence presents challenges, with dedication, education and humility, nurses can navigate these obstacles and strive towards providing culturally sensitive care that promotes the well-being of all patients.

We Can Help

Need support navigating culturally competent care or managing stress at home or at work? For counseling, coaching and other resources contact us at 877.731.3949, through the VITAL WorkLife App or contact us online.

Interested in learning more?

Contact Us


Tags in this post

All Entries

Get New Insights Delivered to Your Inbox