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Providing culturally competent care

The importance of providing culturally responsive care

Canada is increasingly becoming a country of varied cultures. The city of Toronto is one of the most ethnically diverse cities in the world. Nurses continually encounter cultural factors that influence the reactions of patients and families to illness and facilitate or impede  the nurse patient relationship.

Understand your own cultural beliefs, values, practices and biases. Learn how your culture is similar to or different from your colleagues and the families for whom you provide care. 

Invest time to understand each family's unique experience.

  • How do they define their family?
  • Who does and how do they make decisions about health and treatment?
  • What are their beliefs about health, illness, symptoms and stress?
  • How do treatment recommendations seem to be similar to or different from their own cultural practices?

Assess; don't assume. Assess the influence of the family's cultural background on the child's behaviour specific to health and illness. Don't assume that this child will act the same as the last child you took care of from the same cultural or ethnic group. 

Humbly acknowledge yourself as a learner and consider that the child and family members have unique personal experiences in the healthcare system.  

Confirm if the information that you have about a cultural group is accepted or practised by your patient and their family.

Identify the family's culturally influenced practices, strengths and beliefs that you can include or support within what will be a mutually agreed upon plan.

Recognize that a family's cultural background will influence health-related behaviours as will previous experiences, level of education, language skills and socioeconomic status. 

Interact from a place of cultural humility and create a culturally safe environment where patients and their families are respected for their unique health care practices, preferences and decisions.

Consider and address health disparities, systemic biases and inequities in order to optimize health outcomes.