Today’s nurses are faced with the challenging task of delivering culturally competent care to a large number of patients with different ethnic backgrounds. Among other things, a culturally tailored approach requires overcoming prejudice and racial stereotypes, which have shown to have a negative impact on patient health (Perkins, 2014).
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The concept of stereotypes was formulated by Lippmann in 1922 and is used to describe widely held erroneous notions about a certain population (Perkins, 1997). Stereotypes are oversimplified assumptions that are resistant to modifications due to their second-hand nature since they are typically held about those populations the individual had little to no contact with (Perkins, 1997). Stereotyping is a simplified way of thinking since it means forgoing differences and applying the same behavioral patterns to a large group of widely different people who have only one common future. Typically, stereotyping is related to a number of characteristics, such as gender, age, and racial background. Racial stereotyping is one of the most difficult challenges immigrants have to face in a foreign country. The main characters of the novel How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents faced many instances of racial stereotyping when they immigrated to the US:
García de la Torre didn’t mean a thing to them, but those brand-named beauties simply assumed that, like all third world foreign students in boarding schools, we were filthy rich and related to some dictator or other. (Alvarez, 2010, p. 108).
Acculturation is a difficult process as it is since immigrants leave their cultural heritage and all the connections they have behind. The Garcia family’s sense of displacement was greatly increased due to racial stereotyping. The US is a country shaped by people of different ethnicities, and in order to build a truly prejudice-free nation, it is necessary to understand that reinforcing negative stereotypes has real consequences to the well-being of minorities and the US economy as a whole. The fact that racial and ethnic health inequalities exist was well known before and was supported by a number of studies. One of the studies which involved 1500 patients showed that patients who feel misjudged by the health care personnel do not trust their provider. Such patients are more likely to put off seeking medical help and less likely to follow their treatment plan (Ferguson, 2015).
Believing in stereotypes means excluding all the differences which make each person unique. If an individual believes in all the stereotypes, he falls into the trap of judging people by his perceptions rather than by their actions and qualities. However, if a medical professional succumbs to stereotyping, he takes responsibility for health disparities between different populations and prevents minorities from improving their health. As a nurse, I am responsible for improving the accessibility as well as the quality of health care for all populations. Eliminating racial and ethnic disparities is essential to improve the health of the population as a whole. In order to do that, it is vital to implement culturally and linguistically appropriate care. Such care has been shown to have a positive effect on patients’ outcomes. (Cronk et al., 2011).
Stereotyping is a concept that is damaging to the health care industry and the US economy as a whole. Only by talking about cultural differences and the superficial nature of stereotypes the negative effect of stereotyping can be reduced.
Alvarez, J. (2010). How the Garcia Girls Lost Their Accents. Chapel Hill: Algonquin Books.
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Cronk, C., Hoffmann, R., Mueller, M., Zerpa-Uriona, V., Dasqupta, M., & Enriquez, F. (2011). Effects of a Culturally Tailored Intervention on Changes in Body Mass Index and Health-Related Quality of Life of Latino Children and Their Parents. American Journal of Health Promotion, 25(4), 1-11. Web.
Ferguson, D. (2015). Healthcare stereotyping can negatively affect patient outcomes. Web.
Perkins, T. (1997). Rethinking Stereotypes. Web.