Culturally Competent Healthcare


In the contemporary healthcare, the need for medical staff to be culturally competent is not questioned. In this paper, the reasons that make culturally competent healthcare necessary for the quality of care and the satisfaction of a patient were studied. The particular importance of cultural awareness in the field of family planning was emphasized. The influence of cultural values and beliefs on the essential issues related to family planning was examined. The cultural beliefs of African Americans connected with family planning were studied, as well as the discrimination they face in this sphere of healthcare.


In the present-day healthcare, it is accepted that healthcare providers have to be aware of the cultural specificities of their patients. Culturally competent care is a care of a higher quality. Additionally, it increases the satisfaction of a patient and their willingness to trust the clinicians. In family planning, cultural values and beliefs play a significant role, shaping the attitudes to pregnancy, birth, contraception, parenting, and many other relevant problems. African Americans is a group that faces discrimination in healthcare. Nurses should be aware of their beliefs related to family planning to provide them a better care.

The Importance of a Culturally Competent Healthcare

Nowadays, there are no major areas that do not represent cultural diversity. It means that different cultural groups are living close to each other, and they have to understand each other in order to interact and cooperate successfully.

It is becoming more and more important to increase the cultural awareness of nurses to make them provide patients with culturally competent healthcare. This process is highly important for nursing practices since it allows to have a better understanding of a patient’s needs and, what is equally significant, their habits and behavior, which may influence the efficiency of giving care.

It is known that many cultural groups have distinguished habits in clothing, hygiene, nutrition, housing, and many other serious factors that influence the life and health of an individual, especially in such critical moments as birth, giving birth, and illness. A nurse definitely should be aware of such practices and prevent a patient from fulfilling them if it may have a negative effect on medical care. Some cultural groups are considered more at risk than others. If the healthcare system is not able to adapt to cultural diversity, it will lead to poorer outcomes of healthcare. Therefore, healthcare providers need to have some general cultural knowledge, as well as they should be aware of the specificities of each particular cultural group. Additionally, nurses should be widely knowledgeable in their own cultures, traditions, beliefs, and ethics to be better equipped for understanding the cultures of their patients.

The urgent need for nurses to be culturally aware is universally recognized, particularly by the American Nurses Association. Modern healthcare organizations and educational programs acknowledge the need to provide culturally competent medical care (Purnell, 2014, p. 1-3).

Cultural Competence and Family Planning

In family planning, it is hard to overestimate the role of cultural patterns and their influence on healthcare. A culture, in which a woman’s personality is shaped, influences her understanding of family planning practices. In is essential to involve women and their partners in culturally aware and responsible family planning and contraception consulting since it serves the task to decrease infant mortality and promote responsible parenting. It is highly important that a nurse was aware of family planning practices of a patient’s culture, for it is proved that attention to individual needs and beliefs makes a patient more likely to be satisfied by healthcare, to trust the clinicians, and to fulfil their requirements (Quality Interactions, 2010, par. 1).

Cultural factors also have impact on the gender roles of parents, family authorities, the decisions to trust or not trust the recommendation of healthcare providers, the perception of premarital or promiscuous sexual activity, the attitude towards the children conceived as a result of such activity, the attitude towards female children or the possibility of giving birth to a female child, the attitude towards the possibility of having a disabled child, the attitude to menstruation, the decision to have a certain number of children, the decision to get an abortion, the attitude to contraception, the openness or difficulty in speaking about sexual problems, the reaction on a woman’s and man’s infertility, the understanding of decision-making autonomy, privacy, and many other significant issues (Quality Interactions, 2010, par. 1).

In 2009, the authors of a research prepared for the Office of Family Planning conducted a number of interviews and proved that cultural factors play a primary role in family planning decisions, participation of family members in family planning, and discussing the possible actions related to family planning (Hart, Silva, Tein, Brown, & Stevens, 2009, p. 12-13).

A Culturally Competent Family Planning for African Americans

It is clear that healthcare providers should be culturally aware when performing medical services in family planning for African Americans. Their cultural specificities, as well as those of other cultural groups, influence the process of family planning and receiving healthcare. African Americans are the subjects of discrimination and face inequality in healthcare (Watts, 2003. par. 16), especially women. In 2005, two scientists conducted research, during which they performed a telephone survey, involving 326 African American women, who were asked about racial discrimination that they experienced while receiving family planning care. The result was that 79% of the participants faced discrimination while receiving such services (Thorburn & Bogart, 2005, p. 31).

African Americans demonstrate the highest level of infant mortality among American minority groups. The discrimination of this group, including the sphere of healthcare, triggered the distrust of African American individuals to healthcare system and the family planning practices that it offers. For instance, a widespread belief exists among African American females that promoting contraception is a way for the government to control their population, that the contraceptive means lead to harm or that they are not effective. Additionally to discrimination, a negative attitude is demonstrated in the society to unwed mothers, which creates a difficult situation for an African American woman, who disapproves of contraception. Healthcare workers need to be aware of such beliefs and provide the necessary support to African American women, speaking to them in a sensitive manner about their situation during their visits (Quality Interactions, 2010, par. 2).

Special tools exist for healthcare workers to provide culturally competent family planning care to patients. For instance, PEARLS, which is an acronym for Partnership, Empathy, Apology, Respect, Legitimization, and Support, uses the tell-and-ask method to encourage a female patient to tell her story to a healthcare provider (Quality Interactions, 2010, par. 3).


Nowadays, the need for healthcare providers to be culturally competent is needed to increase the quality of care. It is especially important in family planning since cultural factors have a strong impact on all the beliefs and values related to pregnancy, parenting, motherhood, and childhood. African Americans face discrimination in healthcare. Their beliefs may complicate the process of family planning, and nurses need to be aware of this fact.


Hart, J., Silva, S., Tein, N., Brown, A., & Stevens, K. (2009). Assessment of strategies for providing culturally competent care in title x family planning clinics: Final report. Web.

Purnell, L.D. (2014). Guide to culturally competent health care (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: F.A. Davis Company.

Quality Interactions. (2010). Engaging in culturally competent family planning counselling. Web.

Thorburn, S.T., & Bogart, L.M. (2005). African American women and family planning services: Perceptions of discrimination. Women & Health, 42(1), 23-39,

Watts, R. (2003). Race consciousness and the health of African Americans. Online Journal of Issues in Nursing, 8(1). Web.