How to Strengthen Cultural Competence in Nursing

Being a nurse, your main focus is to provide skilled patient care to the best of your ability. As the cultural landscape of our world continues to diversify, practicing cultural competence in nursing practice has become more relevant than ever before.

When a patient enters medical care, they may be highly stressed because of pain, nerves, fear, and worry. If they are accompanied by family members, the stress is intensified as these emotions are compounded.

Comforting patients during this time is crucial – and that’s all made possible with cultural competence.

Increasing Cultural Competence in Nursing Practice

Through years of research and education, many medical scholars have shared knowledge and techniques that nurses can employ to practice cultural competence.

Cultural competencies for nurses are built upon three pillars:

  • knowledge
  • attitude
  • skills

1. Knowledge

Learning about the culture base of those in your area is the first step to strengthening your cultural competence.

Depending on your location, the number of cultures you encounter will vary. Seek out information on topics such as shared traditions and values of each cultural group.

In larger cities, you may be able to accomplish this by:

  • researching your city website for demographic information
  • visiting the local library or university
  • doing specific research within cultural groups around town

Maintaining a level of awareness of the cultures around a service area enables a nurse to quickly assess the medical needs of a patient.

Part of enhancing your culturally competent care nursing knowledge includes the ability to conduct a cultural assessment. In the following section, you will learn the importance and techniques used to master this skill.

Patient-Centered Care and Cultural Competence In Nursing Practice: Cultural Assessment

The goal of a cultural assessment is for a nurse to formulate an acceptable treatment plan for each patient based on the information provided by that patient regarding their beliefs.

Berlin and Fowkes designed the mnemonic, LEARN, in conducting a cultural assessment. This mnemonic stands for 5 steps outlined below:

Listen: listen to the patient’s perception of the presenting problem.

Explain: explain your perception of the patient’s problem. Is it physiological, psychological, spiritual, and/or cultural?

Acknowledge: acknowledge the similarities and differences between the patient’s perception and your perceptions.

Recommend: recommendations are built upon the knowledge gained from the first three steps. It is inevitable that culture will affect the recommendations, and the patient must be involved in this process.

Negotiate: the patient may require negotiating a treatment plan. It is imperative that nurses are sensitive to the cultural practices of each patient while still providing the best care possible.

2. Attitude

In this case, “attitude” refers to a level of awareness in yourself and your patients in regards to stereotypes, rules of interaction and communication customs.

It’s a fact that culture influences a person’s behavior and decision-making.

Become aware of your cultural attitude. Being sensitive to those of other cultures allows you to plan the best care for your patients.

Seek to understand the basics of all cultures with which you will engage, such as spirituality, customs, and family hierarchy. Having this general knowledge will help you understand the attitudes of your incoming patients and their families.

3. Skills

Developing a skill set based on increasing your cultural competency can be accomplished by focusing on skills like communication and conflict-resolution.

Communication is a key component of skilled nursing.

Clear communication between different cultures when medical treatment is taking place is critical. It also involves learning to adapt to new and different situations in a flexible way.

As stated earlier in the article, culturally-driven medical attitudes can create issues in patient care plans. This inevitably gives rise to the need for effective conflict-resolution skills.

Tools and Resources to Strengthen Your Cultural Competence in Nursing Practice

For further detailed information about cultural competence, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office of Minority Health.

This website provides a wealth of knowledge on a variety of topics. It includes a library of over 50,000 documents, books, journal articles, and media related to the health status of racial and ethnic minority populations.

Additionally, the website includes a vast amount of data and issue briefs that may prove interesting to nurses who are seeking to learn about new cultures.

Another excellent list is provided by The National Association of School Nurses; this comprehensive resource guide includes a variety of articles and websites dedicated to cultural competency.

How has cultural competence impacted you?

Cultural competence in nursing practice focuses on knowledge, attitude, and skill. Consistently working towards being culturally competent is an exercise in compassion and respect.

Download our free cultural competence guide below to learn how to best care for your patients!


Explore Your Career Options



Choose Your Adventure
Nursing | Allied
Per Diem

Per Diem

Design Your Schedule
Flexibility | Consistency |


Advance Your Career
Opportunity | Support |