Culture has been identified as one of the factors that medical practitioners the world over consider while dealing with patients as a social construct. Religious values, practices, traditions have not only been linked to disease acquisition, but also its management and how health matters are handled by different cultures across the world. Beyond this, culture is linked to how people choose what health care systems, providers, and choices they make within the confluence of culture (Basavanthappa 168). Oftentimes than not, health care practitioners approach patients with predetermined expectations and perceptions about a patient’s behaviors and attitudes, based on our beliefs about culture and religious norms; however, how does this affect us in treating them?
Generally, cultural elements influence how people think and provide a broad framework for resolving issues, including health matters (Basavanthappa 168). Complex traditional values and norms including folklore medicine and belief systems determine how people behave and play an extremely vital role in the ways clients perceive health and health practices. It is fundamental for their definition of health and illness and the decision to seek nursing care and support. Culture has been defined broadly as encompassing ”a view of the world, a set of values, beliefs and traditions which are handed from one generation to the next” (Basavanthappa 183)
How then does the cultural phenomenon influence the way nurses treat patients in hospitals? To answer this question, one must consider the various tenets of culture, as well as how they would function in considering how to deal with a Chinese.
General nursing principles vis-à-vis culture
A number of ethical principles are paramount when dealing with patients with respect to culture. These include respect of persons, respect for autonomy, respect for freedom, respect for beneficence (doing good), respect for nonmaleficence (avoiding harm to others), respect for veracity (truth-telling), respect for justice, respect for fidelity, and Confidentiality (Basavanthappa 174).
Interestingly, all these elements are tailored around respect of universal culture. For instance, in nursing, respect of persons entails regarding the clinical situations but also to all life situations. Broadly, the principle guides nurses on how to treat individuals with dignity. Autonomy on the other hand entails the recognition that individuals have independent minds and can therefore act on their own and govern their actions. Regardless of culture, veracity entails the fact that nurses should be able, to tell the truth, to provide “accurate information and real health status of patients and the process and reality that the treatment involves” (Basavanthappa 176).
Chinese Culture and Health Care choices
The Chinese are heterogeneous. They include people from mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, as well as the South East Asian Countries. These groups portray different linguistic, social, economic, and political diversities. Overall, their cultural beliefs have notions on health, illness, and disease acquisition. For instance, disability by most Chinese is still associated with some mysterious cause. Those who suffer disability have guilt linked to the fact that some curse, ancestral spirit, or otherwise of mystery may be the reason why an individual suffers such misfortune (Videbeck 125). Notably, they are more comfortable with people who get injuries that lead to limiting physicality than those who suffer congenital physical or mental disorders (Basavanthappa 181). This means that many Chinese up to today still seek traditional healers for mitigations of such conditions.
The communication barrier and the choice of health care providers is another area, which requires scrutiny. The Chinese have a number of cultural patterns, which influence their choice and decisions around the kinds of health care provisions, and systems they choose. Thus, these factors should be considered by health practitioners when dealing with patients.
One aspect to consider is that the Chinese are generally shy people when in a context they are not used to (Videbeck 130). Thus, a nurse dealing with them may consider greeting them gentle and in friendly tones. Because of the respect, Chinese accord to the elderly, health practitioners ought to address such people with ”Mr. or Mrs.’’ titles. When addressed as such, they are likely to feel comfortable and stick to such health facilities for further services. Chinese generally consider being addressed by elderly people by their first name as disrespectful (Basavanthappa 197).
Other than that, Chinese people tend to communicate differently say with the Americans; they tend to communicate ‘less directly’ and less ‘assertively’’. Their communication relies more on gestures, signs, eye messages, and facial expressions among other non-verbal cues. Some of these expressions connote different meanings with other cultures, particularly the American culture. For instance, while Americans use direct eye contact as a show of trust and attentiveness, the Chinese perceive it as intimidating. In fact, for the Chinese, looking directly at an elderly person may be interpreted as being disrespectful. These communication challenges have been determinants for Chinese to choose where they seek health care, with the consideration of the latter being more attractive (Videbeck 126).
Culture affects the way people behave and the choices they make including healthcare and the Chinese are no exception. Nurses should thus be vigilant in dealing with patients with different cultural dynamics. In dealing with the Chinese, away from understanding their culture, it is important to factor in some other factors such as engaging community organizations and services providers who understand the Chinese culture and conducting campaign and outreach programs in schools and religious institutions. Beyond these, respite and recreational activities and programs that are based on cultural diversity requirements and community needs should be considered.
Basavanthappa, B.T. Fundamentals of Nursing: Concepts, Process, and Practice. New Delhi: Jaypee Brothers Publishers. 2004. Web.
Videbeck, S. Psychiatric-Mental Health Nursing. Fifth Edition. PA: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins, 2010.