1.4 Transcultural Factors Influencing Nursing Care

Transcultural nursing refers to the nursing care of all patients, taking into consideration their religious and sociocultural backgrounds.  There are many variables to consider in giving nursing care to a person of a race, religion, or culture different from your own. Respect for the patient, however, is something all aspects of transcultural nursing have in common.

Major Factors in Transcultural Nursing

a. Nutrition and dietary practices.

b. Beliefs about illness, its causes and cures.

c.   Disorders specific to a particular group, such as the high incidence of sickle cell anemia among the Blacks.

d. Specific anatomical characteristics (e.g, stature, skin tone, hair texture).

e. Religious beliefs about illness and death.

Variables Relating to the Transcultural Aspects of Nursing

Some of the factors are:

a. Cultural background of the nurse; differences and similarities between the patient and the nurse.

b. Definition of health and illness accepted by a specific culture; concepts relating to the causes of illness and injury.

c.   Folk medicine practices.

d. Attitudes toward health care, relationships, and interactions (e.g., personal space, eye contact).

e. Economic level of the patient and family (socioeconomic status).

f.  Environmental factors and related disorders (e.g., ghetto living, lead poisoning).

g. Specific names and terms related to the illness or disorder (e.g.,"bad blood," "mal ojo"); use of slang.

h. Language differences between the health care staff and the patient and  family.

i.  Modesty and concept of the human body.

j.  Reactions to pain, aging, and death.

k.   Attitudes about childbirth, abortion, sexual expression, children born to unmarried parents, and homosexuality.

l.  Attitudes about mental illness and retardation.

m.    Diets in relation to religious and cultural practices; dietary taboos.

n. Attitudes about physical appearance and obesity; adaptation to special therapeutic diets.

o. Importance of religion and religious practices.

p. Religious practices in illness and death; specific prohibitions.

q. Group identity; importance and type of family structure; cohesiveness within the group; traditional roles of men and women.

r.  "Visibility" of ethnic background (that is, Black, Oriental).

s.   Disorders specific to a cultural group (that is, Tay-Sachs, sickle cell anemia).

t.  Attitudes about school; educational level and aspirations of most members of the group.

u. Predominant occupations within the group; role models.

v.   "Americanization" of younger members.

w.    Numbers of people belonging to that group in the same geographic area as the health care facility.

x.   Prejudices within a cultural group relating to other members of the same group.

y.   Stereotypes about other cultural/ethnic groups.

z.   Mixed families (mixed races, religions, or cultural backgrounds).

Sociocultural Beliefs About Illness, Its Causes, and Cures

a. Examples of Differences in Beliefs About the Causes of Illness.

(1)  Japanese Shintoist.

(a)  Man is inherently good.

(b)  Illness is caused when the person comes into contact with pollutants, such as blood or a corpse.

(2)  Native Americans.

(a)  Native Americans follow these three concepts:

1  Prevention.
2  Treatment.
3  Health maintenance.

(b)  The person's health is defined in terms of the person's relationship with nature and the universe.

b. Examples of Differences in Treatment of Disorders.

(1)  Blacks and Raza/Latino cultures have long used roots, potions, and herbs for treating illnesses.

(2)  Filipinos and Raza/Latino groups believe that:

(a)  Hotness and coldness, wetness and dryness, must be balanced to be healthy.

(b)  Certain illnesses are hot or cold, wet or dry.

(c)  Certain foods and medications, classified as hot or cold, are added or subtracted to bring about a balance of humors or to fight off "hot" or "cold" illnesses.

(3)  Copper bracelets are worn by some groups as a preventive or cure for arthritis.

c.   Other Cultural Influences to Consider When Planning Nursing Care.

(1)  The nurse should take into consideration the needs of people who practice folk healing. The folk healer (curandero in Spanish) should be allowed to see the patient.

(2)  South Americans often wear chains to drive away evil spirits. The nurse should not remove these unless it is absolutely necessary.

(3)  Native American women are not likely to seek early prenatal care. They believe that pregnancy is a natural, normal process; a clinic or a hospital is associated with illness.

(4)  Many Latino patients believe that it is dangerous to bathe immediately after delivery. The nurse must remember this during postpartum care.

(5)  Many cultural groups, such as Native Americans and Southeast Asians, believe that it is improper or impolite to look someone in the eye when speaking to him/her.

Religious Beliefs About Illness and Death

a. The Jewish Religion.

(1)  Practices.

(a)  Dietary practices vary among Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform Jews.

1  The patient should be asked if/how he/she observes the Kosher  dietary laws.
2  The head nurse or dietician should be notified so that the dietary practices can be considered when meals are prepared and served.

(b)  The Jewish person is expected by the culture to be independent and self-reliant; and emphasis is placed upon responsibilities and obligations to God.

(c)  All practicing Jews observe Saturday as the Sabbath.

(d)  The most important Jewish holidays are Yom Kippur, Rosh Hashanah, and Passover.

(e)  The patient may wish to see the Rabbi (spiritual leader).

(f)    Circumcision of male infants is generally a religious ceremony and is sometimes performed at the hospital.

(2)  Nursing implications.

(a)  Although it is usually not possible to serve Kosher meat in a nonsectarian hospital, the nurse can be sure not to serve meat and dairy foods together or pork to an Orthodox Jewish patient.

(b)  Allow the patient to be as independent as possible and make as many of his/her own decisions as possible.

(c)  Be especially observant for indications that a patient needs pain medications because he/she may not tell you if he/she needs them. These indications may be:

1  Restlessness.
2  Diaphoresis (perspiration, often perfuse).
3  A distressed facial expression.
4  Withdrawal.

(d)  You may have to help arrange for a place in the hospital to have a male child circumcised.

(e)  Arrange for a Rabbi to visit the patient on Saturdays or special holidays.

 b. The Protestant Faith.

(1)  Practices.

(a)  There are many denominations in the Protestant faith. Most denominations recognize two sacraments: Baptism and Communion.

(b)  A person may be baptized by a layperson, such as a nurse, in an emergency.

(c)  Christmas and Easter are the most important Christian holidays for Protestants, as for other Christians.

(2)  Nursing implications.

(a)  Ask the patient if he/she would like a visit from a Minister or other member of the church.

(b)  In the event of an emergency in which an infant or adult may become critical and/or die, the nurse may baptize the patient, if asked, or may do it if he/she (the nurse) thinks it may be comforting to the patient and/or family.

(c)  Inquire about any specific dietary or religious practices and provide this information to the appropriate person.

c.   The Roman Catholic Faith.

(1)  Practices.

(a)  The Roman Catholic Church considers Baptism, Confession, Holy Communion, and the Sacrament of the Sick as basic sacraments of the Church.

(b)  During a long illness, a Catholic patient usually wants a priest to hear confession and to give communion. At such times, the nurse should provide as much privacy as possible.

(c)  Death is viewed from three aspects:

1  Visible reaction: emphasis on faith in God.
2  Fear of dying and of judgment: trying to get life in order.
3  Desire for death: emphasis on returning to God.

(d)  The last rites of the Church (Sacrament of the Sick)

1  A vital part of the Catholic faith.
2  Comforts both the patient and the family members.

(e)  Easter and Christmas are the most important holidays in the Roman Catholic faith.

(f)    Many Catholics abstain from or restrict their intake of meat during Lent, which is the 40-day period from Ash Wednesday to Easter. Some have maintained the custom of abstaining from meat on Fridays.

(2)  Nursing implications.

(a)  In case of an emergency or impending death, a member of the nursing staff may perform a Baptism.

(b)  If a patient is brought into the hospital unconscious or in a serious condition and found to have a rosary, Catholic medal, or identification card indicating that the patient is Catholic, a priest should be called so the patient may have the Sacrament of the Sick.

(3)  If a patient wishes to abstain from meat because of a religious holiday, inform the dietician or head nurse so that arrangements can be made.

(4)  During important holidays, the patient may want to see a priest and/or attend Mass.

d. Christian Science.

(1)  Practices.

(a)  Christian Scientists do not permit surgery or many other forms of  medical care.

(b)  They believe that all illness is mental in origin.

(c)  They believe that illness can be cured by appropriate mental processes.

(d)  Treatment consists of prayer and counsel for the sick person; healing is carried out by certified practitioners.

(e)  Healing is highly intellectual.

(f)    There is no formal clergy.

(2)  Nursing implications.

(a)  Because surgery or other medical care is not permitted, often legal intervention must be obtained in order to give care in an emergency situation.

(b)  Because there is no formal clergy, arrangements may have to be made to have other church members visit the patient.

e. The Latter Day Saints.

(1)  Practices.

(a)  Mormons are members of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

(b)  They believe in the laying on of hands in treating deformities.

(c)  They do not use tobacco; drink stimulants (such as coffee, tea, or cola drinks) or alcoholic beverages; or consume chocolate.

(2)  Nursing implications.

(a)  Inform the dietician or Head Nurse of the patient's dietary requirements.

(b)  Ask the patient if he/she has any particular religious practices he/she wishes to follow and adhere to them if possible.