Cultural competence is an increasing imperative in today’s diverse society. And while cultural competency may not be specifically outlined in the Florence Nightingale Pledge, it is an implicit part of a nurse’s call to devote themselves to the “welfare of those committed to [their] care.” Let’s take a closer look at the meaning of cultural competence, along with key techniques for being a culturally competent travel nurse.
The 411 on Cultural Competence
While there’s no single definition of cultural competency, experts agree that it involves the proactive effort on the part of healthcare providers to best meet the needs of patients across social, cultural, and linguistic differences.
Georgetown University’s National Center for Cultural Competence (NCCC) offers a bit more guidance in determining the components of cultural competence to be as follows: aligning values and principles with attitudes and behaviors across comprehensive cross-cultural interactions; cultivating organizational capacity to not only value diversity but also to raise awareness through the use of self-assessments; and incorporating all of these measures into organizational practices and policies.
The Challenge of Cultural Competence
While the basics of cultural competence may sound fairly straightforward on paper, practicing cultural competence in a real-world hospital setting can be a challenge — particularly when you factor in the breadth and depth of differences among human beings across everything from belief systems to perception.
In making cultural competence part of their care objectives, nurses — often the first point of contact with patients and their families — position themselves to play pivotal roles in bridging communication gaps, enhancing understanding, and ultimately providing better care for all patients regardless of their gender, race, social class, language, spiritual beliefs, physical capabilities, and other factors.
Cultural Competence 101
So how can travel nurses become more culturally competent? Understanding your own stereotypes and biases is an invaluable first step. Taking time to check in — either through a formal self-evaluation or informal assessment — can help you determine areas of strength and weakness in your nursing practices.
It’s also vital to recognize that cultural competence is not a destination, but a process throughout which there’s always room for growth and learning. Each patient provides a completely new opportunity for practicing cultural competence. Inherent to this? Acknowledging that each patient you treat is an individual with individual needs.
Lastly, keep in mind that while it’s ultimately impossible to expect to know everything about every culture, cultural competency doesn’t expect you to. Rather, it reinforces the value of awareness and acceptance in helping you become a true patient advocate.
One of the most amazing things about travel nursing? Each assignment is a new opportunity to practice and hone your cultural competency skills. In doing so, you’ll not only achieve more meaningful patient relationships, but you’ll enjoy the personal and professional fulfillment that comes with rendering truly effective, patient-centered care.