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Cultural Awareness, Sensitivity, and Competence in Nursing Practice

The professional activity of a nurse has an ethical basis comprising the complex care of patients, the relief of their sufferings, the improvement of their health, rehabilitation, and prevention of diseases. The ethical code of a nurse offers guidelines for performing professional duties of a worker of healthcare sphere. Cultural awareness, competence, and sensitivity are some of the primary values in nursing practice as they guarantee the successful communication with the patients.

Cultural awareness has a major impact on the establishment of relations based on trust between a nurse and a patient. Due to the provision of competent assistance to patients irrespective of their age, gender, type of disease, race, nationality, religion, political beliefs, social and material status, or any other factors, it is possible to avoid the misunderstanding and lack of trust. When providing healthcare services, a nurse should respect the right of a patient for the satisfaction of cultural needs when planning and implementing the treatment. A nurse cannot impose any moral, religious, or political opinion (Purnell, 2014). When setting up the sequence of the provision of aid to multiple patients, it is necessary to use only medical criteria and avoid any type of discrimination. In cases that require the control of the activity of a patient, the invasion of a nurse into a personal life of a patient should be limited only to the professional needs.

Competence is the factor of paramount significance for the successful activity of a nurse and the provision of professional services. The respect towards the right of a person for the highest possible level of mental and physical health and the reception of adequate medical aid is one of the key prerequisites for health improvement. A nurse should provide a patient with high-quality medical services that corresponds to the principles of humanity and cultural and professional competence. The continuous improvement of special knowledge and skills together with cultural education is the primary professional duty of a nurse. The competence regarding the moral and legal rights of a patient helps to avoid violation of the patient’s privacy (Purnell, 2014).

At the same time, it is necessary to avoid the automation of the everyday routine in the profession and display sensitivity in the work with patients. The performing of everyday duties of a nurse should not be limited to mechanical actions such as the provision of medicine or investigating the health condition of a patient. In such a case, a patient may feel the impersonal approach. Thus, the relations between a patient and a nurse become official and formal. For a patient, who needs the provision of healthcare assistance, the communication with a nurse has a crucial importance. The first contact with a nurse helps a patient to avoid the feeling of mistrust or a lack of partnership. To form the partnership relations, a patient should feel the sensitivity of a nurse and readiness for the provision of assistance. Only then, the dialog will be possible and a nurse will be able to obtain the necessary information about the patient such as personality, opinion about the disease, hopes for health improvement, and plans for the future. The communication helps to determine the attitude of a patient towards family, work, and other issues that may have a critical impact on health improvement and diagnosis.

Thus, cultural awareness, competence, and sensitivity are the key factors in nursing practice. They allow a nurse to establish relationship with a certain patient, to determine his/her attitude to the process of treatment, and figure out the best ways of health improvement. These factors also help to avoid the impersonal approach that may have a negative impact on the process of treatment.


Purnell, L. D. (2014). Guide to culturally competent health care (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.