In their work, nurses face a broad variety of ethical issues that can impact the way they approach clinical decision-making. For example, providing care to a patient from a different culture can be challenging for nurses, mainly because they do not always have knowledge or understanding of the patient’s culture and customs. The patient’s culture can largely affect his or her decision-making regarding treatment, the disclosure of the diagnosis, and end-of-life care. In this case, an ethical conflict occurs when the patient’s beliefs contradict the nurse’s recommendations. Therefore, it is critical for nurses to understand the importance of culturally competent care and apply ethical practice standards in their work.
The need for cultural competency in nursing is a rather popular topic of scholarly inquiry. Prosen (2015) argues that patients are entitled to receive culturally competent care regardless of their cultural, religious, or ethnic background. Indeed, in a country with a significant level of diversity and substantial health disparities in cultural and ethnic minorities, providing care that does not violate the patient’s beliefs is crucial.
Prosen (2015) also states that patients have specific needs stemming from their cultural background, which also have to be taken into account. For example, some cultures require people to pray several times daily, restrict certain foods, and affect family relationships. Other cultures, on the other hand, may limit specific treatments or medications and influence the patient’s medical decision-making. Both types of influences are equally vital for nurses to consider and respect in order to provide culturally competent care.
Prosen (2015) explains that most nurses lack understanding and knowledge of other religions and cultures, which affects their ability to fulfill patients’ needs. Therefore, it is essential to make cultural competency an integral part of nursing education.
Personally, I believe that providing culturally competent care is part of the nurse’s role. This view is supported by several theories and standards. One ethical theory that applies to the present issue is utilitarianism, which speaks in favor of decisions that bring a greater good. If the nurses’ decision to persist with treatment or procedure would violate the patient’s cultural beliefs, it is possible that the decision will bring more harm than good to the patient, their family, and the nurse. Respecting the patient’s culture, on the other hand, would promote patient satisfaction and minimize the possibility of conflict.
Besides, culturally competent care is supported by the Transcultural Nursing Theory, which was introduced by Madeleine M. Leininger in the 2000s. As explained by Prosen (2015), “Leininger’s theory is based on the premise that culturally diverse factors such as religion, politics, economics, worldview, environment, cultural values, history, language, gender, and others influence patient care” (p. 151).
Therefore, the theory supports culturally competent care in nursing and can assist nurses in ethical decision-making. The ICN Code of Ethics for Nurses is also an important document that protects patient’s rights to culturally competent care. In particular, the ICN (2012) states that “Inherent in nursing is a respect for human rights, including cultural rights, the right to life and choice, to dignity and to be treated with respect” (p. 1). This means that patient’s right to choose treatment or diagnostic options based on their cultural or religious beliefs should be respected by nurses at all times.
Overall, diversity of cultures, religions, and backgrounds creates significant challenges in clinical practice. In particular, nurses might face an ethical issue of providing care to a person of different cultural background, whose culture or religion impacts their needs and choices with regards to treatment and care. In all such cases, providing culturally competent care should be the key priority of the nurse, as it is supported by applicable theories and standards.
The International Council of Nurses (ICN). (2012). The ICN Code of Ethics for nurses. Web.
Prosen, M. (2015). Introducing transcultural nursing education: Implementation of transcultural nursing in the postgraduate nursing curriculum. Procedia-Social and Behavioral Sciences, 174(1), 149-155.