Improving Patient Outcomes through Cultural Competence and Collaboration

Diversity and Inclusion: Improving Patient Outcomes through Cultural Competence and Collaboration

Healthcare is not delivered in isolation – the best patient experiences are those that respond to an individual’s unique needs and take into account the whole person. This is known as holistic care and addresses a whole range of factors that affect a patient’s current and future health status.

Modern healthcare education has an increasing emphasis on understanding these markers, including offering an awareness of diverse cultural identities and what this means for the patient, as well as an acknowledgment of how social determinants of health can affect patient outcomes.

This is especially true of accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) programs, which offer a shorter yet intense course in nursing. They acknowledge that the future of healthcare and equitable access to and delivery of services to all members of the community starts with education.

In this article, we’ll examine how these accelerated programs emphasize cultural competence and collaboration with professionals such as social workers to reach equitable patient outcomes.

We’ll also outline how you could qualify as a nurse in a reduced time period if you have a bachelor’s degree in another discipline. This route is ideal for individuals who have a desire to help change healthcare for the better for everyone, and wish to get started on their chosen career path at the earliest opportunity.

What is diversity and inclusion in healthcare?

Diversity and inclusion are vital elements of good-quality healthcare. The term ‘diversity and inclusion’ in this context means that people of all and any race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender, immigration standing, disability status or socioeconomic level receive equal access to and experiences of healthcare.

As nurses are on the frontline of healthcare delivery, it’s essential that they have the knowledge and tools to recognize and understand these criteria and how they may relate to their patients’ experiences of health and healthcare. They also have a duty to play a proactive part in achieving equitable outcomes.

For example, when welcoming new patients to their practice, a nurse working in primary care may recognize that those of African-American heritage may be at higher risk of diabetes, stroke and high blood pressure. This means that they can take extra care to understand their lifestyle habits and ensure that they get any screening they need.

Another example is that they might understand that the socioeconomic status or education level of a child’s parents may mean that they are at risk of poor nutrition or inadequate living conditions. This could mean that they collaborate with social care services to ensure that the child receives all the help they need to achieve a healthy lifestyle.

Nurses must understand that current healthcare systems and models do not necessarily respond to patients from ethnic minorities and that these patients require care that is tailored to their unique needs. People from ethnic minorities live shorter lives on average than their white counterparts. They are at higher risk of dying from treatable conditions and from dying during or after pregnancy.

These communities are also less likely to have health insurance, one factor in their reduced access to care. This can mean that because they may not receive the care they need for chronic conditions, they are more likely to require emergency healthcare. Overall, they have worse health outcomes and an increased risk of developing serious physical and mental diseases. 

Student nurses are also instructed on the impacts of social determinants on healthcare outcomes and tools and strategies to mitigate them. These include working closely with social workers, running patient education programs, signposting to external agencies that can help with housing and employment, and working at a senior level to influence healthcare policy.

How do ABSN programs respond to these aims?

ABSN programs are designed for students who have a bachelor’s degree in a different field. They offer the opportunity for career changers to study within a shorter-than-usual space of time to enter the nursing profession.

While these programs are shorter than a regular BSN, they do not skimp on in-depth instruction, which includes imparting the knowledge and skills that students need to address social determinants of health, such as level of education, quality of accommodation and access to nutritious food, and bring about equitable patient outcomes.

ABSN programs and cultural competence

These accelerated yet thorough programs offer students the chance to develop an understanding of the many diverse cultures represented in the US so that they may care for patients from all backgrounds in a sensitive and empathetic way, achieving the best outcomes.

This is essential as the population of the US is becoming increasingly diverse. As a result, nurse education has an increased emphasis on the awareness of differences and unique healthcare needs, and how these affect outcomes for patients.

Typically, ABSN programs will include modules on topics such as cultural humanity so that nurses gain an awareness of different cultures and their unique needs. The ultimate aim of this course of study is to ensure that once qualified, nurses care for all their patients with a heightened awareness of individual requirements, as well as respect and empathy.

Student nurses will be supported to understand and practice the components of culturally competent care: awareness, attitude, knowledge and skills. Awareness relates to the student becoming conscious of how they deal with people with different cultural backgrounds from their own, uncovering and acknowledging their own preconceived ideas and biases.

Once awareness has been achieved, they can examine and, if necessary, modify their attitude to become more open and understanding of all cultural backgrounds. They can also proactively apply the knowledge they have gained on their course in their everyday dealings with patients, exercising culturally aware competencies so that they become natural and automatic.

ABSN nurses can start to do this while still studying, as their course will include clinical placements to give them the opportunity to apply the knowledge they have learned in a practical way. This approach means that nurses develop the mindset of delivering holistic care – a tactic that addresses the patient as a whole person, responding to all their physical and emotional health needs, and in line with their beliefs, habits and lifestyle.

The result is more responsive care that is tailored to the individual patient and is more likely to achieve better outcomes. As a consequence, patient satisfaction is improved and individuals are more likely to seek help in the future, creating a ‘virtuous cycle’ of continuous improvement.

ABSN programs and collaboration with social workers

Working with other professionals such as social workers is an important part of a nurse’s role, enabling them to deliver targeted, holistic care and achieve the best patient outcomes.

As frontline workers, nurses are in a prime position to observe and understand determinants of health, such as a patient’s diet and nutrition or their living conditions. If they suspect that these factors are exerting a negative effect on a patient’s wellbeing – for example, if living in damp conditions is exacerbating a lung condition or lack of income means a poor diet – then they can refer the patient to social services with the aim of ultimately achieving better health outcomes.

ABSN courses may address these issues in modules that focus on specific sectors of the community, such as older adult health promotion. This subject area examines the many factors that affect older people’s health and wellbeing, from physiological changes to factors in their environment and home life. 

Student nurses are also instructed on healthy aging and wellbeing, and learn how interventions to assist the older person live well in older age are essential to good patient outcomes. 

There is also a focus on how nurses of older adults may act as their care coordinator and advocate, liaising with external agencies such as social services to ensure that they receive the best possible care, within and outside the healthcare system.

Student nurses will explore similar issues in modules dedicated to the care of children, where they will be taught about the many influences that affect their health, including where a child lives, how well educated their parents are, and how accessible a healthy diet is for them.

Students will also understand how to refer families to supporting agencies, such as social services, so that they receive any extra support they may need – for example, assistance with finances or accommodation, or access to counseling services. Understanding that their patients’ health and wellbeing are linked to many factors, not just the nursing care that they receive, is an essential part of a nurse’s education and an indispensable element of any training course.

Finally, to produce competent nurses who represent the future of healthcare, students on ABSN courses are encouraged to develop their communication skills. This empowers them to liaise confidently with professionals from other sectors, such as social services, and advocate in the best interests of their patients for improved health outcomes in both the short and long term.

How can I start a new career in nursing?

If you are passionate about helping to bring about a future in which all patients have equal access to healthcare and are treated according to their own unique needs, then consider studying for a new career in nursing. This can be possible in fewer steps than you may have thought possible if you already have a bachelor’s degree in another subject.

An accelerated BSN (also known as an ABSN) program will instruct you in preparation for the NCLEX-RN exam so that you can become a registered nurse in less than two years. The Holy Family online ABSN available to residents of Pittsburgh and other locations in Pennsylvania and beyond is one such accredited program that offers a deep understanding of how to provide care to patients from diverse cultures, as well as a focus on communicating and collaborating with other professionals involved in health and social care. It’s ideal for anyone who is unable to relocate to be near campus, instead offering a flexible, online mode of learning, which means that you don’t have to worry about traveling to and from your place of study.

You may also study on your own schedule, fitting it in around your existing commitments. While the majority of the course is online, students will also benefit from a one-week residency at Holy Family University’s Philadelphia campus. You will also be supported to find a clinical placement near your home so that you may practice your nursing skills without having to commute to locations that are a long distance from you. This means that disruption to your already-established life is minimal, and you can simply focus on working toward your new career. This can be achieved in as little as 14 months of full-time study.

As well as gaining valuable insight into diversity and inclusion issues, this competitively priced program will also develop your critical thinking skills and instruct you on healthcare policies and systems. With 89.87% pass rates for the NCLEX-RN and support with exam preparation and finding local clinical placement sites, this program is a great choice for aspiring nurses who wish to help change healthcare for the better.

Prospects for nurses following an ABSN program

Without doubt, studying to work as a nurse requires commitment and tenacity, particularly if you have already undertaken a previous bachelor’s degree. However, if you are passionate about social justice and equality and believe that everyone, regardless of cultural background or other social determinants, should have the same access to good-quality healthcare, know that you can make a difference. 

The reward of seeing patients under your care thrive and achieve their health and wellbeing goals is priceless. From a practical point of view, knowing that you have a degree that can offer you many other benefits, such as a choice of work environments and good remuneration, will make your commitment even more worthwhile.

As a qualified and licensed nurse, you may look for work in a variety of settings, including community clinics, outpatient centers, urgent care facilities, emergency rooms or hospital wards. You will also benefit from decent remuneration. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, registered nurses receive a median salary of around $81,000 per year. The Bureau also notes that the projected percentage change in employment from 2022 to 2032 is set to be 6%, which is faster than the average growth rate for all occupations.

This means that not only will you reap the reward of having a hand in the future of more equitable healthcare and seeing your patients thrive, but you will also have a stable and well-paid career path ahead of you, offering you job security, variety and choice.

Effecting positive change in your community

You can help to change outcomes for patients from all cultural and social backgrounds for the better when you embark on a new career as a registered nurse. If you hold a bachelor’s degree in another subject, then you have already shown the commitment and dedication needed to succeed. By applying for the Holy Family University ABSN program, you will be taking the first step to achieving your dream career – and helping to effect positive change in the lives of the community around you.

A nursing career offers an abundance of choice when it comes to the various paths and roles open to you. It also offers job security and great prospects, so don’t hesitate any longer. Reach out to Holy Family University today and take that first step to a new career where the best outcomes for patients are placed firmly at its heart.

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