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Cultural Competency: A Clinical Practice Issue of Public Health Interest


Cultural competence can be described as the ability to understand the cultural systems or all factors surrounding the culture of any given individual (Quine, Hadjistavropoulos, & Alberts, 2012). Adopting a concept of cultural competence is associated with a positive outcome as far as the delivery of health services is concerned because cultural competence enables one to provide services that are respectful, precise, and responsive to a given cultural group. This essay aims to analyze the need to develop policies that will ensure nurses provide culturally competent services to patients of diverse cultural groups.

Why Cultural Competence?

Culturally competent nurses are in a position to bridge the health gaps that are caused by differences in cultures. If the concept of cultural competence is effectively developed and implemented, then it can enable the established systems, professional groups, or agencies to understand the particular needs of different patients accessing health care services (Jeffreys & Dogan, 2012). Cultural competence is of particular interest to nurses because it enables them to provide the required nursing services adequately and advocate for the needs of every patient they represent (Quine, Hadjistavropoulos, & Alberts, 2012).

Background Information

Over the centuries, the nursing field has proven to be dynamic and always experiencing changes in order to conform to the ever-changing human and environmental needs (Jeffreys & Dogan, 2010). Certain changes that have contributed to the dynamism of the nursing field include changes in societal expectations and norms, invention and development of improved and sophisticated technical systems, the invention of treatment strategies, and multiple discoveries in pharmaceutical treatments (Douglas et al., 2011). Another emerging issue that has attracted a lot of interest is the adoption of cultural competence among nurses and other health care providers in conducting their duties. This has been occasioned by the ever-increasing multicultural and diverse society (Campinha-Bacote, 2010).

Several national and global nursing authorities have recognized the need for a cultural competence nursing society. They have put measures in place to ensure cultural competence in nursing is achieved. However, the main challenges in implementing such measures are the ever-changing and growing ethnic communities and racial diversities. As a remedy, the authorities have embraced research and the use of scientifically researched data to develop policies that will respect the cultural needs of each ethnic group (Larsen & Reif, 2011). Though efforts have been made by the authorities to encourage cultural competence, there are no clear and comprehensive global policies that have been set to ensure cultural competence. As a result, there is a need to develop new policies that will ensure all nurses attain cultural competency before being allowed to practice.

Importance and Effects of Cultural Competence

Providing nursing care that conforms to the standards of cultural competence is of great importance, particularly for nurses serving in high-stress environs and those who provide critical care that requires extreme keenness. Culturally sensitive services are necessary for two main reasons; they enable the nurses to establish a good rapport with their patients and allow the nurses to make an accurate assessment of each patient and develop and implement interventions that are specific and respect the individual needs of patients (Campinha-Bacote, 2010).

Nurses also act as advocates for the patients; thus, cultural competence will enable the nurses to advocate and support the decisions made by the patients. The decisions may be specific to the patient’s culture, but they may appear to go against the established institutional standards. Unfortunately, nurses are not in a position to provide services that meet the cultural needs of different patients due to the lack of a clear understanding of the need for such services, as well as the individual needs of different cultures. Therefore, it is necessary to develop policies that will ensure nurses achieve cultural competence (Larsen & Reif, 2011).

The Cultural Competence Policy

Attaining cultural competency should be considered a necessity for all healthcare providers, particularly nurses, given the ever-increasing need to provide specific nursing services and that respect the individual needs of patients (Campinha-Bacote, 2010). The responsible authorities need to develop policies that will ensure this is achieved. The goal of such policies should be to ensure every health care provider is fully aware of the individual cultural needs of diverse categories of patients the provider is likely to encounter.


Multiple options exist for such authorities to follow. The initial plan should be introducing the subject of cultural competence in the nursing curriculum. This move will be critical in ensuring competence is attained because every nursing student will be required to perform exemplary on this subject before they are permitted to practice. In the design of these studies, attention should be paid to the individual cultural groups the nursing students are likely to address. Only students who demonstrate competence, both theoretically and practically, should be allowed to practice.

The second recommendation is to employ nurses from diverse cultures. Sometimes patients are likely to identify with nurses from their ethnic groups due to the notion that the nurses will understand their needs better. Hiring nurses from diverse backgrounds will ensure that a nurse from the same ethnic background as the patient is allowed to attend to the patient if there is a need. Lastly, available communication offices should encourage public participation through public engagement forums, as well as developing and disseminating resources developed for specific ethnic groups.

Avenues for Establishing the State of Cultural Competence

There are several avenues that will help establish the state of cultural competence. Reports from government agencies, such as the Ministry of Health, can give a picture of the current status. Non-governmental organizations that focus on the well-being of patients can also run an independent research on the subject matter and provide a picture of the state of the subject in health institutions. One-on-one interviews with different patients on the nature of the services received will help in establishing the state of cultural competence. Lastly, websites of relevant nursing authorities, such as the American Nurses Association, can provide information on the exact state of cultural competence in hospitals.

Target Levels of Authority

The topic of cultural competence is supposed to be embraced by all responsible authorities because such policies need to be developed at a national level and enforced by authorities at all levels of governance, including the local ones. My primary target is the national body that regulates nursing activities. The body ought to ensure all nurses achieve cultural competence before they are allowed to practice. Those in the practice should be allowed to increase their knowledge of cultural competence whenever there is a need.


Cultural competence is a critical part of the nursing field. It results in improved access to quality health care services and reduces the health disparities witnessed in health centers. Cultural competence allows nurses to build a good rapport with patients and provide nursing services that are specific and respectful to individual patient needs. Cultural competence can be achieved through the introduction of cultural competence studies in training institutions, hiring a diverse range of nurses, and encouraging public participation. All levels of government are responsible for ensuring cultural competence is embraced and fully implemented.


Campinha-Bacote, J. (2010). Cultural competence in psychiatric mental health nursing: A conceptual model. Nursing Clinics of North America, 29, 1-8.

Douglas, M. K., Piece, J., Rosenkoetter, M., Pacquiao, D… & Callister, L. C. et al. (2011). Standards of Practice for Culturally Competent nursing Care: 2011 Update. J Transcult Nurs, 22(4), 317-333.

Jeffreys , M.R. & Dogan, E. (2012). Evaluating the influence of cultural competence education on students’ transcultural self-efficacy perceptions. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 23(2), 188–197.

Jeffreys, M. R., & Dogan, E. (2010). Factor analysis of the Transcultural Self-Efficacy Tool (TSET). Journal of Nursing Measurement, 18(2), 120–139.

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Quine, A., Hadjistavropoulos,D., & Alberts, N. M. (2012). Cultural self-efficacy of Canadian nursing students caring for Aboriginal patients with diabetes. Journal of Transcultural Nursing, 23(3), 306–312.