Fundamentals & Medical Surgical Nursing
April 13, 2012
Providing Culturally Competent Care to a Native American Patient
When caring for a Native American patient, it is imperative that the nurse provide culturally competent care. In this scenario, there are two main dimensions along which cultural tensions between the patient and the nurse can arise. The first pertains to the actual practices and values of Native American culture, which may be at odds with the practices and values of dominant healthcare institutions. The second is both broader and more subtle: it pertains to the historical relationship of the Native American people and the mainstream U.S. society. After addressing both of these dimensions, suggestions will be made with respect to how a nurse could bridge this gap and provide culturally competent care for the Native American patient. To start with, it is important for the nurse to acknowledge that the Native American perspective on health may simply diverge from the default culture's perspective in some significant ways. For example, BigFoot and Funderburk (2011) have discussed how Native American conceptions of family are different from the contemporary norm, and how this results in the need to adapt nursing interventions in this sphere to the cultural context of Native Americans. Further, these alternative conceptions are often supported by a whole alternate philosophy of life: for example, while Native American culture certainly doesn't advocate passivity "in the face of grave potential harm," there is a pronounced emphasis on "noninterference" and "letting things happen the way they are meant to be" (BigFoot & Funderburk, 2011, p. 312). This may sound somewhat jarring to the ear of the modern nurse. But then, we must remember that the modern obsession with dominating nature may sound just as jarring to the Native American patient. Nurses must
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