The provision of safe and effective health care requires the acknowledgment of the cultural and ethnic backgrounds of patients, which shape their beliefs about proper health care practices. The recognition of health-care disparities across groups of patients from different ethnic heritage calls for the need to increase the level of cultural competence among health care professionals (Galanti, 2014; Purnell, 2014). Taking into consideration the fact that registered nurses (RNs) are on the frontline of health care delivery, they should possess strong knowledge of behavioral patterns, belief systems, and practices that affect the health care habits of different cultural groups.
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However, while religious and cultural beliefs shared by members of the same cohort influence their perception of health, illness, and death to a significant degree, it is necessary to remember that there is a difference between people within the same group (Maurer & Smith, 2014; Purnell, 2014). Therefore, all patients from various ethnic backgrounds have to be treated as individuals having their views that might substantially differ from those espoused by people from their culture (Purnell, 2014). The aim of this paper is to conduct a heritage assessment of three families from different ethnic backgrounds: Mexican, Russian, and German.
Individual characteristics of cultures and religions of the Jones, Brown, and Miller families were evaluated with the help of heritage assessment tool. The tool reflects the extent to which a family’s culture is presented in the lives of its members (Purnell, 2014).
The Brown family is of Russian heritage. Russian culture is associated with a strong sense of family connection which is reflected in relationships with a large network of extended family members. The interview showed that the Brown family maintains contact with aunts, uncles, cousins among others.
People of Russian heritage are known to engage in a wide range of high-risk behaviors such as drinking and smoking. It should be noted that alcohol consumption is so prevalent in Russia that more than 30 percent of deaths in the country are “directly related to alcohol” (Purnell, 2014, p. 330). Even though individuals of Russian heritage “generally adhere to health-care appointments, treatment regimens, and medication use” (Purnell, 2014, p. 331), they often demonstrate a significant level of distrust to physicians; therefore, they habitually resort to the use of homeopathic remedies. Mental illness still bears a stigma in Russia, so people descending from that region are unwilling to disclose either personal or family information related to this topic. Russian immigrants prefer self-diagnosis to a visit to a doctor; therefore, they seek information pertaining to their symptoms on the Internet and in popular Russian-language medical journals (Purnell, 2014). A large percentage of people from Russia are highly religious and “consider prayer as an essential and powerful tool toward health and healing” (Purnell, 2014, p. 331).
The second family interviewed was the Jones family of German heritage that currently resides in the United States. There are no significant differences between diseases and health conditions threatening German Americans and those of people from other developed countries. However, just like Russians, Germans are known for excessive consumption of alcohol, especially beer. According to Purnell (2014), for Germans, “drinking beer is a way of life” (p. 221). Interestingly enough, even breastfeeding mothers are encouraged by German culture to consume small amounts of malt beverages in order to stimulate milk production (Purnell, 2014). Smoking is another high-risk behavior that is common for people sharing this cultural background.
The common characteristics of people of German ancestry is a love of nature. They spend a lot of time outdoors exercising, playing, and participating in group activities. The most popular outdoor activities for German emigrants include hiking, skiing, soccer, tennis, and swimming among others (Purnell, 2014). It should be noted that water sports are especially prevalent among individuals of German ancestry. Another health care practice that should be mentioned is ruhezeit or quiet time during which people of German heritage take naps between 1 p.m. and 3 p.m (Purnell, 2014). The Jones family indicated that they are practicing Christians who belong to a religious institution that they regularly attend. Therefore, it is important to remember that their views on abortion, artificial insemination, and euthanasia among others might be significantly influenced by the official position of their churches on these issues.
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The third family interviewed was the Miller family of Mexican heritage that currently resides in the United States. There are several diseases and health care conditions that are associated with people of Mexican ancestry: malnutrition, malaria, drug abuse, adolescent pregnancy, tuberculosis, and heart disease among others (Purnell, 2014). It should be mentioned that the Mexican culture is associated with an increased rate of alcohol consumption, so women of Mexican ancestry are more prone to alcoholism than women from other cultures. Drinking problems are often related to distorted self-image; therefore, they “have special implications for nursing and health care” (Purnell, 2014, p. 315). Furthermore, both Latino men and women are known to engage in other high-risk behaviors of drinking and driving, smoking, and not wearing seat belts. However, with acculturalization and increased educational attainment, the proclivity for those behaviors significantly diminishes.
Numerous studies indicate that people from Mexican heritage often live in worse socioeconomic conditions than the rest of Americans, which results in health problems such as hypertension and excessive weight among others (Purnell, 2014). Moreover, Mexican Americans are “less likely to have cancer screening or physical examinations than their non-Latino white counterparts” (Purnell, 2014, p. 315).
Heritage assessment tool indicates that the Miller family are practicing Catholics. Therefore, RNs have to remember that the Catholic religion might influence the health-seeking beliefs and behaviors of their patients if they are to deliver culturally congruent health care services (Holland & Hogg, 2017).
The three families represent a diverse set of beliefs, behavioral patterns, and cultural practices that are attributable to the differences in their cultural backgrounds. The most obvious forms of expression of health care and dietary practices, diseases and health conditions, high-risk behaviors, and views of religion and spirituality create a cultural heritage that is formed by diverse experiences of previous generations. Taking into consideration the fact that RNs are on the frontline of health care delivery, they should possess strong knowledge of these and other factors influencing health care habits of different cultural groups. Other areas that have to be recognized and acknowledged by RNs include, but not limited to, the perception of gender roles, forms of verbal and nonverbal communication, and death practices. The nurses that ensure that care is delivered in accordance with the cultural backgrounds of their patients will be able to significantly improve the quality of health care providers in the U.S.
Galanti, G. (2014). Caring for patients from different cultures. Pennsylvania, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press.
Holland, K., & Hogg, C. (2017). Cultural awareness in nursing and health care (3rd ed.). New York, NY: CRC Press.
Maurer, F., & Smith, C. (2014). Community/public health nursing practice: Health for families and populations. St. Louis, MO: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Purnell, L. (2014). Guide to culturally competent health care (3rd ed.). Philadelphia, PA: F.A. Davis Company.