Why are intercultural communication skills in nursing essential?

Global migration has led to the growth of a diverse population. This can be seen in hospital settings, where patients from different cultures seek treatment and hope to get the best possible care. However, a lack of familiarity with specific cultural differences can significantly impact communication, resulting in misunderstandings and incorrect assumptions. That’s where intercultural communication comes in.

As a nurse, developing intercultural communication skills can be helpful when interacting with patients from different cultures. Learn more about intercultural communication skills and how nursing practitioners can establish better relationships by incorporating these skills. 

What does intercultural communication entail?

Intercultural communication is verbal or non-verbal interaction between people from different cultural backgrounds and social groups.

Some of the critical areas in intercultural communication involve:

  • Gaining knowledge of different cultures, their way of living, and interactions.
  • Understanding how cultural differences affect behavioral norms.
  • Recognizing how culture can affect language and communication.
  • Being aware of cultural values and beliefs and being willing to understand when these may clash.
  • Being sensitive to cultural stereotypes that may hinder intercultural communication.

The importance of intercultural communication in nursing 

Intercultural communication plays a critical role in nursing. Pursuing an Indiana online nursing program also allows nurses to delve deeper into the basics of intercultural nursing. These programs, including those provided by the University of Indianapolis, integrate a cultural aspect into health assessment protocols. This equips nurses with the necessary skills for effective intercultural communication too. So, what are the reasons that make intercultural communication so important?

Raises awareness of cultural differences and ensures the best care possible

Nurses interact with patients from different cultures. However, cultural generalization cannot fit every patient. Cultural generalization may describe some uncommon qualities that may not be present in other cultures. That is why you should not generalize cultures from the experience of meeting a few people, as they may not represent the entire culture. 

Cultural differences manifest in different ways: customs or beliefs, facial expressions, touch, thought process, and tone. 

For example, certain cultures are against prescription medications and surgeries due to their religious beliefs. Other cultures require physicians to disclose a diagnosis to the patient’s family, who later decide how much to tell the patient. Touch is a common nursing act, but in some cultures, touching a patient of the opposite sex is prohibited. 

Failure to understand why the patient may be declining life-saving treatments may disrupt the treatment process and further destroy the patient’s experience and relationship with the nursing team. 

Effective intercultural communication allows the nurse to be aware of these cultural differences. The nurse will understand how to approach the situation and who to relay the prognosis to, which reduces distress to the patient and their family. 

Allows nurses to relate to patients

Understanding specific cultural values and beliefs allows nurses to relate better to their patients. With intercultural communication, nurses can easily explain a medical issue to a patient and their families. Patients will also be relaxed when they have someone on their care team who acknowledges their culture. 

Clinical research nurses also find it simpler to conduct medical studies if they have a background of working with patients from a range of cultures. With the findings they produce, physicians can ensure patients are treated safely and ethically. Collecting medical information like family medical history, previous diagnosis, and any side effects of the prescribed medicine also becomes more manageable.

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Increases patient satisfaction 

Incorporating intercultural communication in nursing improves care quality, further promoting patient satisfaction. 

How can nurses improve intercultural communication skills?

Nursing professionals can enhance their intercultural communication skills by carrying out the following.

Speaking to people from different cultures about social beliefs 

Nurses should ensure that they have some knowledge of their patients’ history, culture, and way of living. They should ask about their communication style and find out more about their gender and social dynamics to better understand how to provide care. 

Learning new words

Learning a few phrases in their patient’s language shows the nurses’ willingness to interact with them. It also increases the patient’s confidence in the treatment and care. 

Final thoughts

Intercultural communication in nursing involves much more than learning about different cultures, beliefs, and languages. Nurses must also understand their cultural identity and how it can affect their caregiving role.

Ultimately, integrating intercultural communication in nursing promotes a better quality of care, improves patient-nurse interaction, and ensures patient satisfaction.


IITSWEB is the Chief Business Development Officer at IITSWEB, a Magento design and development company headquartered in Redwood City, California. He is a Member of the Magento Association and an Adobe Sales Accredited Magento Commerce professional. Jan is responsible for developing and leading the sales and digital marketing strategies of the company. He is passionate about ecommerce and Magento in particular — throughout the years his articles have been featured on Retail Dive, Hacker Noon, Chief Marketer, Mobile Marketer, TMCnet, and many others.

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