Importance of Cross-Cultural Communication in Nursing

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Global Nursing Programs

Cross-cultural communication has become an imperative part in field of nursing. While talking to the patients from different demographics or working with peers from a different cultural background, communication in different forms is quite important for nursing professionals.

Everyone is different, so do their cultural roots and this might pose a hindrance in an effective communication too. When it comes to communication in healthcare profession, nurses are generally the ones to face the differences. Thus, for them, it is extremely important to understand and communicate in a way that the other person understands and does not feel offended with different standards for loudness, speed of delivery, spatial distance, silence, eye contact, gestures, attentiveness and response rate during communication.

In situations like –

  • People from Arab might avert their eyes when listening or talking to someone superior in rank
  • Speaking with your hands inside your pockets may offend someone from South America
  • Patients from Russia would peck a kiss on your cheeks to express their gratitude.
  • There are many who would hesitate to call you using your first name, until they know you better.
  • Your expression of happiness on your face might be taken as an expression to show anger or mask sadness in Japanese or Chinese culture.

This seems like you might have to be very careful while communicating, however, for effective cross-cultural communication, you just need to stick with the basics like –

  • Always use simple and common words
  • Ensure that you follow basic grammar
  • Do not use slang in your profession
  • Do not lose temper, raise your voice if you have to repeat something many number of times
  • Question politely and ask to paraphrase important points

To ensure cultural competency while communicating in nursing, use phrases like –

  • “Is it okay with you if…”
  • Are you comfortable when…”
  • “Can you explain to me how…”
  • “Was it clear when I said…”

Wherever you work or practice, you need to make a conscious effort to learn and overcome communication issues in nursing. A culturally fluent approach to good communication skills in nursing takes time, patience, good listening and awareness, and will go a long way to improve the communication across cultures and enhance personal and professional relationships.


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