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Tools Nurses Can Use to Understand Cultural Perspectives

 nursing in multicultural communities

In communities that have a diverse population with varying cultural and linguistic backgrounds, communication between patients and nurses can be especially difficult, negatively impacting nurse-patient relationships and often resulting in a decline in the quality of available nursing care. The National CLAS Standards were established by the Office of Minority Health in the year 2000 as a set of mandates and guidelines designed to advise health care administrators in the most efficient methods of establishing culturally and linguistically adaptable health service centers. In accordance with the CLAS Standards, nursing professionals are currently implementing the following tools and practices to progress adaptability to diverse cultural perspectives in health care facilities.


In nursing, effective communication is vital to delivering competent care to patients, and a language barrier creates challenging obstacles to communication that may inhibit the process of planning care and providing treatment. This problem may be remedied through use of an interpreter, which allows nurses to establish a rapport with patients who are not fluent in their language, creating an opportunity to build trust with the patient, significantly improving nurse-patient relationships. Consistently having on-site interpreters who are fluent in the local languages available is a beneficial way to ensure that patients can quickly communicate symptoms or other concerns, especially in emergency situations.

Having full-time interpreters available is highly beneficial to understanding cultural perspectives in medicine, though when on-site interpreters are not available in the language of the patient, interpreter phones can also be used to bridge gaps in nurse-patient communication. Interpreter phones are a useful technology, through which a nurse and patient can connect with a translator who is trained in medical terminology, allowing the nurse to ask important questions through the interpreter, to the patient, and receive detailed, direct answers that otherwise would not be clear due to the language discrepancy.[3] These language services are a valuable component of daily nursing activities and therefore practicing nurses should be prepared to regularly interact with them to improve care.

Educational Resources

There are times when patients are not fully aware of the most practical way to handle a diagnosis, symptom, or other important medical information. By making an active effort to encourage learning from previous experiences, nurses can help their patients develop a plan of action that educates them on the most appropriate way to avoid poor health outcomes in the future. [1]

This sharing of knowledge can be accomplished by offering patients educational resources that offer detailed referential instructions, engaging patients in a productive conversation that is easy to understand, increasing the likelihood of knowledge retention. Videos, pamphlets, and other printed resources can all be effective means of educating patients. To best accommodate patients in diverse communities, these educational materials should be produced in all of the most common local languages, ensuring the information is available to all members of an intercultural community.

Tolerance and Diversity Training

Apart from educating and communicating with patients, nurses themselves need to make an effort to comply with the cultural standards of the patients who they are interacting with by building their internal knowledge of local cultural traditions, rituals, and practices. This requires that nurses independently pursue opportunities to learn more about their patients, while also engaging with their colleagues and administrators to facilitate cultural awareness initiatives that promote cultural tolerance through combined discussion and observation. Through diversity training initiatives, which may be meetings or mandatory classes, nurses can identify the specific cultural needs of their patients and develop strategies to hold themselves accountable for satisfying them.

Examples of methods to satisfy cultural needs include knowing when to offer special food preparation when necessary, knowing how to communicate with the patient and their family members in a respectful manner, and understanding what values are most important to the patient when providing care. Some regions have strict cultural guidelines that if not adhered to, may cause conflict or distress between patients and care providers. Failure to comply with critically important cultural guidelines may be interpreted by the patient as a lack of compassion or values, therefore nurses must prioritize cultural tolerance during their professional careers and nursing education. [4]

Through the provision of culturally appropriate education and the effective use of language interpretation, nurses can build cultural knowledge that enables them to develop the skills and attitudes necessary to offer respect, compassion, and understanding to their patients. A Master’s of Science in Nursing program features coursework that balances teaching practical nursing skills with knowledge about patient psychology, which is essential to the process of communicating competently with patients from different cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

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Family nurse practitioners play a major role in today’s health care field. The responsibilities of FNPs have evolved alongside that of physicians, which means additional opportunities, autonomy, and authority. At Regis College, our online Master of Science in Nursing Family Nurse Practitioner degree can help you develop the specialized skill set you need to practice at the advanced level.

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