We live in a very diverse nation and overcoming challenges related to cultural beliefs and preferences is a very common obstacle for health care workers today. In an article in The Online Journal of Issues in Nursing cultural diversity is defined as being more than just race,
Health care workers must realize that addressing cultural diversity goes beyond knowing the values, beliefs, practices and customs of African Americans, Asians, Hispanics/Latinos, Native Americans/Alaskan Natives, and Pacific islanders. In addition to racial classification and national origin, there are many other faces of cultural diversity. Religious affiliation, language, physical size, gender, sexual orientation, age, disability (both physical and mental), political orientation, socio-economic status, occupational status and geographical location are but a few of the faces of diversity. (Camphina-Bacote, 2003)
Health care workers have to diligently accommodate the many needs of all the individuals they encounter. These needs range from diverse deep cultural backgrounds, varying learning styles and learning preferences, and mixed opinions defining health and well being. Language barriers may also be a hardship for health care workers to overcome.
An example of how health care workers can overcome differing points of view would be demonstrated in their ability to accommodate to the specific needs of the patient. For example a Hispanic patient who is a Jehovah’s Witness and only speaks Spanish has been ignoring abnormal signs and symptoms of rectal bleeding for several weeks. She comes into the hospital and is worked up and then diagnosed with colon cancer. The early treatment process requires a colon resection. The risks are discussed with the patient and the risk of blood loss with the surgery is covered. During the operation the patient does experience some bleeding and has hemoglobin that drops down well below normal range to 5.3. In the Jehovah’s Witness culture they do not believe in accepting blood transfusions. After the procedure the pt. is transferred to the ICU. In the ICU the visiting hours are typically restricted to specific hours and this patients family does not understand and does not feel comfortable leaving there loved one unattended.
In the scenario described above there are several examples of possible obstacles that the health care worker must overcome. First would be the language barrier. The use of an interpreter service would be required to be certain that the patient has a concrete understanding of the diagnosis, the treatment, signs and symptoms of chemo and radiation, education for follow up treatment etc. The second obstacle to consider would be the religious belief and refusal of blood products. The risks associated with anemia and possibly educating the pt. and family about natural options available to try and raise hemoglobin nutritionally with iron and vitamin supplements. The third obstacle could be the cultural preferences of family dependency and honoring and providing care for elders. The new diagnosis of cancer is difficult and when you add complexities like language barriers and specific religious beliefs it can make the process even more complicated. Health care workers must be very agile in their abilities to create flexible learning environments for the many diverse encounters the will have.
Camphina-Bacote, J. (2003). Many faces: Addressing diversity in health care. The Online Journal of Issues in...