Health and Illness in Your Community
Seeing beyond one’s culture is vital in nursing. This is a key to effective communication that fosters understanding and improves relationships with patients. However, at the same time, it is necessary to be able to avoid stereotyping and remember that, despite common beliefs about a separate culture, “individuals will always maintain some uniqueness within a group” (Rosdahl, 2008, p. 76). I, for one, had an interesting stereotyping experience in my practice that exemplifies how stereotyping can make patients feel uncomfortable.
I am quite knowledgeable about the Cuban culture and the way Cuban people live and behave. Once I had a Cuban patient who I used to call ‘papo’ as Cubans typically do. At first, I did not notice that my calling him like this made him rather uncomfortable, and I kept doing this until one day I realized that he differed from most of the Cubans in many ways. When he had visitors, mostly his family, he was quite reserved, polite, and serious, which was different from how I thought Cuban people usually behave. I understood that my attitude towards him was stereotyped and that I should pay more attention to the issue of stereotyping at work.
Fortunately, in that case, my stereotyped attitude towards the patient did not impact his healthcare in a negative way. Nevertheless, it did affect my relationship with the patient, because I was somewhat embarrassed for making him feel uncomfortable. This case reminded me that not only cultural but other kinds of stereotypes should be avoided in nursing. This concerns gender and age stereotypes as well.
In conclusion, my involvement into a stereotyping experience reminded me how important it is to remain impartial when it comes to the patients’ culture, race, age, gender, etc. Meeting people from one and the same culture and finding common traits between them does not necessarily mean that all people from this culture are like this. My personal experience shows how nurses’ stereotyped attitudes can impact their relationships with patients.