When I became a nurse, all documentation was done on paper. I can still see the human diagram on the trifold patient flowsheet when I close my eyes. I’ve practiced nursing through the transition from paper to electronic medical documentation, the emergence of the barcode scanning medication administration technique, to presently being employed in the emergency room during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On my journey, I have had some good and some not-so-good experiences, but I have taken it all in stride. Being a nurse has certainly allowed me to become more self-aware. It can be a bit challenging to reach a level of self-awareness in which you discover your life’s purpose. Sometimes our purposes are separate from our vocations, but in my case, the two are closely connected. I know that I found a career that aligns with my lifelong goals.
As I grew in nursing, I’d often find myself being chosen to precept and educate nurses. Below are some things that I have discovered about mentorship and cultural competence as I prepare to become a nurse practitioner.
What is mentorship?
According to Merriam-Webster, mentorship is defined as the influence, guidance or direction given by a mentor. Mentorship in nursing is not necessarily limited to the preceptorship of a new graduate but is something that follows a nurse across their nursing lifespan.
Imagine or remember being a new nurse or even an experienced nurse on your first day of orientation. You probably felt lost on that first day. It’s a new experience, filled with new faces and a new culture. Your staffing coordinator briefed your mentor or preceptor on your background and experience. This debriefing ultimately helps guide your mentor in deciding what teaching styles they should employ, but there is still that initial wave of uncertainty for both of you.
What makes a good mentor?
What makes a “good” mentor can be very subjective since individual needs can vary. However, there must be some compassion and understanding in mentorship. Mutual trust is essential. Historically, nurse managers assigned preceptors solely based on the years of experience of the trainer. The idea is that these nurse trainers would be able to draw on their tenure as a nurse and relate to the new nurse. While experience is important, the learning experience is far more rewarding when the mentor is passionate about leadership and education.
Knowing the learning capacity, work experience and cultural stance of who you’re mentoring is an important aspect of mentorship, and I would argue that culture is the most critical. Cultural competence has resonated with me more than any other theories, models and philosophies that I have learned in nursing.
What is the importance of cultural competence?
There is a significant amount of scholarly research on cultural competence as it relates to the practice of nursing and more research is still being done. Although the aim of the research varies, one core concept is typically present — culturally congruent care leads to satisfactory outcomes for the patient.
Because the world we live in today is composed of people from various cultural backgrounds, every nurse will likely experience having to care for patients from diverse populations and cultural backgrounds.
How have you experienced cultural competence?
Presently, I am employed in the emergency room in a rural community in Louisiana. If you know anything about Louisiana, then you can imagine that during one 12-hour shift, I encounter a lot of diversity.
Remember that self-awareness concept I mentioned earlier? As an African American woman, I employ that concept almost every single day. Just about every shift, my non-African American colleagues and I would have respectful and engaging culturally sensitive discussions about patient care. It is always an enlightening experience.
I have taught many of my colleagues about some of the old folk remedies and beliefs specific to the Black culture of our region, and they in turn have taught me what they knew. We have identified and discussed sensitive topics such as grief and some lighthearted topics like superstitions. A person’s beliefs and values are their cultural reality and should always be considered, especially when it comes to healthcare. Those meaningful discussions led us to provide culturally sensitive care without preconceived notions. We developed a better understanding of the rationales that were hidden behind a patient’s actions and perceptions.
Why does it matter?
Perhaps you are a nursing student or a nurse returning to school. You may even be a retired nurse. Whatever your position, I’d like you to adopt cultural competence into your nursing practice and in your everyday lives. It’s respectful and considerate. A patient is likely to remember having an encounter with a nurse who provided care and teaching that was based on their cultural perspective. If care and education that is considerate of a patient’s cultural needs is provided, the patient is more likely to have a positive outcome.
* Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook 2020. BLS estimates do not represent entry-level wages and/or salaries. Multiple factors, including prior experience, age, geography market in which you want to work and degree field, will affect career outcomes and earnings. Herzing neither represents that its graduates will earn the average salaries calculated by BLS for a particular job nor guarantees that graduation from its program will result in a job, promotion, salary increase or other career growth.