When discussing multicultural health, the focus often remains on how we can safely care for patients from a wide variety of cultures. However, just as important is acknowledging and respecting the cultures of our colleagues. As nurses, we need to ensure our workplaces are culturally safe and this responsibility lies not only with healthcare executives and managers, but with all those who work within health.
This issue was highlighted to me whilst I was completing my honours research project. The project explored if undergraduate nursing students would question poor practice they witness during clinical placements and what motivated them to intervene. I found one student’s experience very interesting. This student was from Zambia and he explained to me that within his culture, it was considered extremely disrespectful to question anyone older than yourself. This made him reluctant to question other nurses; even if he knew what they were doing was wrong. He described his struggle to balance his duty as a patient advocate with his cultural background.
I couldn’t help but feel we had let this student down. His teachers, both at University and his supervising nurses during placements, had solely focused on the patients’ cultural backgrounds and missed a crucial factor – how his culture would influence his future nursing practice. Luckily, the student found the support he needed. It is reassuring to know his classmates – our future colleagues – were able to offer the support this student needed and already have the insight needed to create culturally safe workplaces. Hopefully, their influence will spread and our multicultural nursing workforce will be celebrated.
**Laurie is a regular columnist for the Australian College of Nursing “The Hive” Magazine offering her perspective as an early career nurse. This column was originally published in the Autumn 2016 issue ***