Nursing Initiative Looks to Better Understand Patients' Cultures

Joe Cantlupe, for HealthLeaders Media , March 4, 2010

The American Nurses Association (ANA) plans to launch a diversity awareness resource center this year to better serve the "full complexity of the U.S. population" in healthcare settings, ANA officials say.

The center will include a database of materials related to different ethnicities, cultures, sexes, and other information to enable nurses to better serve an increasingly diverse patient population. The resource center will give nurses the opportunity to ensure fair and equitable treatment of patients, particularly for individuals facing difficult health and financial issues, according to the ANA.

"It is vital to underscore that our most vulnerable neighbors are simultaneously the hardest hit by bias while being the least able to cope with the associated risks and consequences," said ANA President Rebecca M. Patton in a statement.

"Clearly, cultural competency is a major responsibility for nurses since it sits right at the nexus of healthcare and social justice," Patton said. "This program will be an important resource to enable nurses to acquire the requisite knowledge and behaviors to champion a culture of compassion in healthcare."

To gauge existing cultural competency among nurses, the ANA also will conduct an online survey of attitudes, says Emily Piccirillo, grant development manager for the association, which is based in Silver Spring, MD, and represents 2.7 million nurses. The new center may be launched within the next few months, she says.

In its grant request, the ANA said it would include in the resource center information for nurses that will provide a glimpse into cultural issues that affect patients, "while providing methods for managing information clinically through negotiation once it is obtained." Pfizer, the pharmaceutical company, provided the funds to the ANA. The amount was not disclosed.

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