Cultural Competence

It is very important that as a nurse you are aware of the profound cultural issues with which we may have to deal. It is very important that you do not cause offence or insult the person sitting with you as a result of a lack of thought on your part (Green, 1999; Meacher, 1999; Law & McCoriston, 1996).

Be aware of the major cultures that are represented in your local area. Is it appropriate that you interview this person if there is a gender difference? In Australia, it would be totally inappropriate for a male healthcare worker to ask an Australian Aboriginal woman about 'women's business', that is, sexual health, menstrual history or contraception (Bell, 1998). In the Muslim culture men may not be willing to have an examination performed by a woman. If in any doubt check it out with your colleagues or indeed carefully ask the person 'Is it appropriate that I ask you questions about your sexual health? Would you prefer that I get my male colleague to see you today?' You can usually sense the person's discomfort immediately and/or if the body language indicates a defensive posture.

Be aware of the local users of your service, this is especially important if you work with young people or marginalized groups, such as people who are regular drug users. This will influence the terminology that you should be aware of, such as 'works' for needle and syringes. This will facilitate clearer communication between you and your clients (Clutterbuck, 2004; Green, 1999).

You cannot know all the street language or sub-cultural language used, so ask your client if there is any doubt. As well as broadening your own vocabulary, this aids in rapport-building with the person - you are actively engaging them to help you understand. One of the major barriers that you can erect between you and the client is using judgemental language, which at best irritates them, and at worst alienates them, so that your interview may fail (Meacher, 1999; Clutterbuck, 2004; Green, 1999).

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