2013 Winning Essay

2013 A Nurse I Am Scholarship winners were asked to answer the following:

A. The movie "A Nurse I Am" provides a wealth of insights and approaches to be considered by future nurses, new nurses and seasoned nurses. According to Joyce Newman-Giger, "When nurses consider race, ethnicity, culture, and cultural heritage, they become more sensitive to clients.” Considering this statement, what two nurses in the film seem to best portray or consider the importance of culture in their approach to patient care? Explain why.

B. The United States thrives as an expanding multicultural pluralistic society. As a nurse, how and why will you step forward to offer culturally competent care?

Jaime Contreras

Riverside Community College

The film “A Nurse I Am” gave us a glimpse into the lives of four nurses who have been recognized for being exceptional at their practice. They each display individual approaches at nursing, yet they all share the same guiding principle; to provide quality, compassionate, culturally centered patient care. This principle of care is indispensable when working in diverse communities that require a deeply rooted understanding of the culture and its people. Two nurses, who exemplify these traits particularly well, are Bob Wilkinson, and Mona Counts. Through their ability to listen and effectively communicate, they are able to adapt their care in order to meet the cultural needs of the community they serve.

For Bob Wilkinson, it is important to be empathetic in order to be an effective pediatric oncology nurse. When we think of different cultures, we often think about different ethnicities or nationalities. In a simpler sense, however, the word culture encompasses the shared attitudes, values, and beliefs of a group of people. Although his patient base (children) is not a separate culture in the traditional sense of the work, pediatric nursing requires a set of skills that few other nursing fields need to develop. Children typically need to be approached differently than adults. They may be un-trusting of strangers, and might not fully understand their condition or treatment. Mr. Wilkinson is able to overcome these fears by getting to know the patients and their families, by displaying empathy, and by sharing a bit of his self in every patient interaction. In doing so, Mr. Wilkinson creates an environment of trust and comfort. In the culture of children, this holistic approach can be the pivotal factor to promote the physical and mental wellness of a child battling cancer.

Mona Counts works in a medically underserved community in which poverty is the biggest barrier to health. As she stated, health is function not just the absence of disease. This statement resonates loudly because a person’s health can affect every aspect of their life, and absence of health can further depress a person’s economic position creating a cyclical state of poverty. Mrs. Counts sees a large portion of this community in her practice. What makes her such a great advocate is that it seems like she truly understands the culture and struggles of the people she serves. She understands that a lot of her patients have had lives working on the farm or in the mines, and many not have had a chance at higher education. She also understands that because of poverty, some patients may not see optimal health achievable. She knows this about her patients because she practices the art of listening. She stated that if you listen, a patient will tell you what’s wrong, and what their idea of health is. It is this quality that makes her a culturally competent champion of her community.

I find inspiration in both Mr. Wilkinson’s and Mrs. Counts’ way of practicing nursing. They are prime examples of who I want to be as a nurse. Just like Mrs. Counts, I live in an economically depressed community, and I understand the culturally diverse landscape of the people I serve.

As a nursing student, I see my role in the community as a bridge between people and wellness. I want to be a nurse who is deeply involved in teaching my community about the importance of preventive care. In order to achieve that goal, I realize I must first learn the intricacies of the cultures present in my community. I must understand that a certain culture may value the advice of a grandmother over the advice of a physician, or that another culture may strongly value their cultural foods and customs causing dietary noncompliance. The only way I can achieve this understanding is by practicing empathy and by listening to my patients. I need to give some of myself into every patient interaction and I must listen to what the patient is saying, as well as listening for what they are not saying.

I know I will be a good nurse, but I want to be more than that. I want to be a nurse who makes a change in my community; one that improves the lives of my patients through quality, compassionate, culturally centered patient care. That is what being a nurse means to me. And so, I look forward with excitement to one day being able to say, A Nurse I Am.

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