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Learn Sociocultural Awareness and Sensitivity in Healthcare With an RN to BSN Degree

The healthcare landscape is more global than ever, and nurses are serving increasingly diverse, often underserved, communities. In order to provide the best care, nurses must learn how sociocultural differences can affect patient access to care, care delivery and outcomes. The global COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated health disparities in the United States and worldwide. To prepare for a culturally rich and ethnically diverse practice, nurses need to apply a culturally competent approach in their practice through sociocultural awareness and sensitivity. They need to better prepare themselves to navigate transcultural, global healthcare or, as some experts predict, the next pandemic.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s online Registered Nurse (RN) to Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program equips graduates with the necessary skills in cultural competence and sensitivity for the diverse patients of today.

What Is Transcultural Nursing?

Transcultural nursing is a personalized approach to care that considers the potential impact of an individual’s culture, values and belief systems. In addition, it explores the impact of social, political, religious and economic situations on healthcare. For example, socioeconomics, ethnicity, health literacy, culture and other factors can influence the following for a patient:

  • Perception of wellness and illness
  • Logistics of when, how and where they seek care
  • Care preferences and shared decision making
  • Autonomy in making healthcare decisions
  • Expectations, participation and satisfaction with care
  • Adherence to the plan of care

Although there are specific positions in transcultural nursing, every nurse needs to take steps to provide sociocultural competence in their practice. Culturally sensitive care can improve safety and accessibility, engagement and satisfaction.

Sociocultural Awareness and Sensitivity in Healthcare Best Practices

The following are ways sociocultural awareness serves the nursing field, improving provider-patient relationships and overall health outcomes.

Bilingual Telehealth Services. New care delivery models are using more telemedicine and wearable medical devices. However, telehealth is only successful if it is accessible and the patient knows how to use it and understand the information. Unfortunately, certain populations and the elderly have low technology health literacy and a lack of access to devices. Non-English-speaking providers can also create a telehealth language barrier issue.

Galileo is a national telehealth service that delivers 24/7 primary and multi-specialty care in both English and Spanish. Organizations, employers and third-party payers use their services to improve population health. Galileo can virtually manage 90% of medical conditions with fewer in-person visits to urgent care or emergency departments. In addition, they have dedicated Spanish-speaking clinicians to address concerns via test, phone or video.

Community Navigators. Healthcare organizations can move healthcare “upstream” to the community level to target the root cause of disease. Often it is social determinants of health (SDOHs) — such as social, economic and environmental conditions — that contribute to a lack of wellness and create more barriers to care.

Duke Cancer Institute engages community members through a robust Community Advisory Council with diverse representation. They have community-facing navigators to provide education, screening and help locate resources. Through their Office of Health Equities and Disparities, they use a five-step roadmap to conduct health assessments. Their innovation in eliminating barriers won the prestigious Association of Community Cancer Centers’ Innovator Award in 2017. Their community approach to quality healthcare and research improves cancer statistics and minority participation in clinical trials.

Spiritual or Religion Influence. Religious and spiritual beliefs can influence healthcare decisions and outcomes. Individuals may address medical issues differently depending on their beliefs and values. A common example is patients who are Jehovah Witnesses not allowing blood transfusions. People often listen or trust their religious leaders or fellow congregational members. Several studies show that religiously active individuals trust their providers more.

The Jackson Heart Study in Jackson, Mississippi, is one of the most extensive community-based investigations of cardiovascular disease in Black individuals. A study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association showed that Black adults who attended religious services or activities more frequently had healthier heart habits than those attending less frequently. Overall, frequent attenders are more likely to exercise, eat a heart-healthy diet, not smoke and maintain a good blood pressure than those with less frequent church attendance.

“Religiosity and spirituality may serve as a buffer to stress and have therapeutic purposes or support self-empowerment to practice healthy behaviors and seek preventive health services,” says Dr. LaPrincess C. Brewer, a preventive cardiologist and assistant profession of medicine at Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota.

Gain Cultural Competence Skills With an Advanced Degree

Sociocultural competence means being aware and supportive of people’s cultural, social and linguistic backgrounds. It is caring with an awareness that their own worldview is not universal. Instead, nurses must be socially and culturally aware of the individual’s framework of approaching life.

The University of North Carolina Wilmington’s online RN to BSN degree offers a Transcultural Health Care course that addresses the “cultural, social, political, and economic forces” that inform specific populations’ health decisions and outcomes. This course and others in the program can help nurses better meet patients where they are and meet their specific health needs.

Learn more about the University of North Carolina Wilmington’s online RN to BSN program.

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