Improving Outcomes Through Cultural Competence

Jana Lauderdale, Ph.D., RN, FAAN, identifies herself as “a Comanche Indian and a nurse.” Early in her career, Lauderdale recognized the need to learn more about cultural competence – the process of a nurse seeking the best ways to work effectively…and respectfully…in the context of serving those who come from a diverse, or different, background.

It’s not just about race or skin color, but ethnic differences, those who are physically challenged, LGBTQ people, those with HIV, and the homeless. It takes a special kind of understanding and empathy to treat these patients with the same care as those with whom a nurse naturally relates.

“Cultural competence involves empathy for my patients, and the lives they lead,” Lauderdale asserts.

Cultural competence often reveals itself in unusual ways. For example, when she was serving as a labor and delivery nurse early in her career, Lauderdale noticed different groups of women experienced the birthing process in entirely different ways. But, by realizing…and understanding…these cultural nuances, Lauderdale says nurses are able to better provide the care their patients need.

And, when working in intensive care, she saw nurses get confused and frustrated by one patient’s family constantly moving furniture around the room. They thought it was messy but, by talking to family members, Lauderdale learned the man’s religious beliefs placed a high value on facing west when expecting death. Armed with this knowledge, his nurses were better able to treat their patient.

As Lauderdale points out, nurses need to learn from their patients. Cultural competence is really all “about patient outcomes, openness and acceptance.” It’s how nurses learn to provide each patient with the best possible care on a personal level.

Are you a culturally competent person? If “yes,” then the nursing profession could be the right career choice for you. Start yourself along the path toward becoming a nurse by visiting our Nursing Programs page and by learning what the career entails…and what it expects from new nurses. The link also will show which campuses nearest to you offer nursing programs.

As we celebrate National Nurses Week (May 6-12), it’s a good time to start prepping to be someone’s healthcare hero in the future.

Tags: nursing, career advancement, empower

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