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A Patient-Centered Approach for Cultural Competence in Healthcare

Nurses play an integral role in the healthcare setting because they are often the first people patients see. As the healthcare field moves toward a patient-centered approach, nurses will become more vital to improving patient care. A patient-centered approach involves the patients and their families in the decision-making process. Healthcare systems that use a patient-centered approach can provide personalized services while improving patient satisfaction.

Defining “Patient-Centered”

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the most important goal in healthcare is providing a service to others. The core of the patient-centered approach is establishing a partnership with the patient; this partnership guides the decision-making process by empowering patients to participate in their own care. The patient-centered approach comprises several common dimensions to foster the relationships between nurses and patients.

First, nurses respect patients’ cultures, preferences and individual needs. Next, nurses help coordinate patient care with other nurses, physicians, support services and other staff. Emotional support reduces anxiety related to diagnoses and treatment. The patient-centered approach also emphasizes the importance of creating comfortable living spaces to improve the quality of life.

Nurses who use a patient-centered approach explain vital health information to patients. By providing this information, nurses give their patients autonomy and teach them self-care. Friends, family members and social support networks are another dimension of the patient-centered approach. Patients may request that nurses share health-related information with those involved in the decision-making process. Since the patient-centered approach relies on an active partnership, patients experience an easier transition to self-care at home.

This partnership is also vital for planning and coordinating additional services patients may need outside of the clinical setting. Eliminating barriers to healthcare, such as extended periods of time between visits, difficulty scheduling appointments or long healthcare wait times, places the patient at the center of care.

Cultural Competence Among Nurses in Healthcare

When nurses communicate respectfully with patients and their families, they demonstrate a patient-centered approach. Patients’ personal values, along with their beliefs and customs, define their cultures. In the patient-centered approach, patients and their families collaborate with their nurses to enhance healthcare and service in a culturally sensitive manner.

Because culture helps dictate personal values, nurses must demonstrate cultural competence with all of their patients. The skills involved in this include incorporating human interaction into personalized care, understanding spiritual beliefs that may be vital to the patient and his or her support system, and gathering information to integrate non-traditional practices into the patient’s care.

Additionally, patients from vulnerable demographics may not trust healthcare professionals based on previous experiences. Vulnerable demographics include those who experience negative health experiences based on racial or ethnic identity, immigration status, income, education or literacy. As such, nurses who use a patient-centered approached rooted in cultural competence can alleviate a patient’s anxiety about negative health outcomes. These relationships foster trust between the patient and the provider.

The National HealthCare Disparities Report found that a patient-centered approach can help improve health status in several ways. The level of physical burden patients experience decreases, and patients are more likely to follow their treatment regimens. Additionally, misdiagnosis due to poor communication decreases while satisfaction with healthcare services increases.

Although a patient-centered approach may offer favorable outcomes, one barrier to this approach is language. As such, additional support services and the help of family members and friends may help address differences in language. Effective communication makes patients feel more at ease and improves outcomes. As healthcare systems increasingly place patients first, nurses stand at the forefront of ensuring America’s diverse population receives the care it deserves.

Learn about the Purdue Northwest online RN to BSN program.


Retrieved from Epstein, R. M., & Street, R. L. (2011). The Values and Value of Patient-Centered Care.

Retrieved from Shaller, Dale. (2007, October). Patient-centered care: What does it take?

Retrieved from The 2010 National Healthcare Disparities Report. (2010).

Retrieved from Rickert, J. (2014). Patient-Centered Care: What It Means And How To Get There.

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