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Cultural Differences in Patients


Societies across different countries become more ethnically, racially, and culturally diverse as the processes of globalization and mass immigration are gathering momentum. Thus, it is essential for medical practitioners to obtain multicultural competence and be able to implement culturally sensitive tools to provide high-quality healthcare services and improve patient outcomes. Considering this, the present paper will discuss the process and content of the cultural patient assessment, biocultural variations in common laboratory tests, and biocultural variations in health/illness for individuals from diverse cultures.

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Cultural Assessment

The main purpose of cultural assessment in nursing is to develop mutual understanding between a practitioner and a patient and create culturally relevant intervention plans. The first step in this process is “to learn about the meaning of the illness of the patient in terms of the patient’s unique culture” (“Doing a cultural assessment,” n.d., para. 2). It means that a nurse must start an interview by inquiring an individual about what they think could cause their health issues, what is their preferable remedies, and what they expect from medical treatment.

Afterward, it is suggested to evaluate the extent to which a patient is emotionally and psychologically aligned with his own culture and its traditions. When doing so, healthcare practitioners must focus on such issues as the timeframe of a patient’s immigration as well as its character (voluntary or involuntary) (“Doing a cultural assessment,” n.d.). Moreover, nurses should evaluate their patients’ current surroundings, social and cultural connections, and personal associations (“Doing a cultural assessment,” n.d.). This type of inquiry would allow understanding if an assessed individual went through cultural bereavement, if they adhere to traditional lifestyle patterns, and if they feel supported throughout their daily lives. In its turn, this knowledge will help to conduct a more successful treatment negotiation.

Biocultural Variations in Common Laboratory Tests

The awareness of how racial and ethnic differences may affect individuals’ biological indicators is an essential part of multicultural competence. Some of the most common biocultural variations can be observed in such tests as orthopedic x-rays, as well as tests for G6PD deficiency, sickle cell anemia, and cholesterol levels. The first one reveals that people of different ethnicities have distinct skeletal structures. For example, “African American people exhibit longer arms and legs and shorter trunks than Caucasians” (Fischbach & Dunning III, 2015, p. 41). G6PD deficiency is most frequently found in newborns of either Asian or Mediterranean descent, whereas sickle cell anemia is most common among people of sub-Saharan, Mediterranean, Indian, and Saudi-Arabian origins (Fischbach & Dunning III, 2015). As for cholesterol levels, they are often higher in African American children than in Caucasian children (Fischbach & Dunning III, 2015). By considering all these variations, practitioners may predict patients’ health risks and connect them to genetic backgrounds and cultural lifestyles.

Biocultural Variations in Health and Illness

Biocultural variations in laboratory tests indicate that the physique of culturally diverse individuals differs in their healthy states. Besides that, people of certain ethnicities and races may be prone to the development of particular illnesses and diseases more than others. It means that genetic factors can define one’s health or illness to a significant degree. For instance, African Americans are at increased risk of such conditions as hemoglobin C disease, lactase deficiency, and Beta-thalassemia (Sagar, 2014). Chinese people often have alpha-thalassemia, Irish individuals face higher risks of phenylketonuria and neural tube defects, and Japanese persons frequently suffer from acatalasemia and Oguchi disease (Sagar, 2014). It means that as part of a comprehensive cultural assessment, nurses must evaluate their patients’ propensity to certain diseases, which is associated not just with their culturally defined behaviors but their ethnic/racial backgrounds as well.


Culturally relevant healthcare practice is core to the preservation of the health of diverse individuals. Thus, besides learning about the backgrounds of individual patients, nurses should gain awareness of variations in multiculturally diverse individuals’ biological health indicators. Practitioners’ knowledge of multicultural differences and their potential influences on health are important to ensure high-quality preventive, reactive, and proactive care that would ensure patient satisfaction and reduced healthcare expenses.


Doing a cultural assessment. (n.d.). Web.

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Fischbach, F. T., & Dunning III, M. B. (2015). A manual of laboratory and diagnostic tests (9th ed.). New York, NY: Wolters Kluwer Health.

Sagar, P. L. (2014). Transcultural nursing education strategies. New York, NY: Springer.

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