Cultural Competence: code word for racism

Darcel Reyes
Yonkers, NY

I am a nurse and the concept of cultural competence is taught in nursing school and addressed in mandatory inservices in healthcare organizations. I am now a doctoral student and find that the topic is being researched to death. But white cultures get a pass on cultural competence. We only have to be culturally competent about groups of people who are not white. Basically, that means, “let’s find out how these poor dumb people are taking care of their health so that we can teach them the right way–the WHITE way.” And while we are being culturally competent about our patients (or using cultural competence to stereotype them) we are ostracizing Orthodox Jewish nurses, Muslim nurses, Buddhist nurses, Hindu Nurses, Hispanic nurses, African American nurses, Filipino nurses, and other nurses who do not fall into our stereotype of nurses. And let’s not talk about the way you are treated in nursing school when you a a person of color. Expect to work harder, be smarter, and get treated as less than the white students. Nursing leaders bemoan the lack of nurses with PhDs and the limited number of people of color enrolling in nursing school. Maybe they should look at the culture of nursing and its treatment of nurses who are not white and Christian.

 

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