Self-Awareness with Vulnerable Populations: Hispanic Culture

The nursing profession requires caring for a culturally diverse group of patients. Health care professionals need to be mindful that one’s personal cultural background, values, and beliefs have a profound influence on health and how patients respond to medical care and compliance. There are many vulnerable populations that nurses care for every day, most are within the Hispanic population.

Hispanics are one of the greatest increasing demographic population in the United States having a fifty eight percent increase between 1990 and 2000 (Kanna, Fersobe, Soni, & Michelen, 2008). The term “Hispanic” is typically defined by the country of origin and may be used interchangeably with the term Latino or Latina. This population is classified from the originating countries of Mexico, Puerto Rico, Central America, South America, and the Spanish West Indies (Weaver, 2011). Human beings have a natural disposition to develop personal biases and stereotypes against a dissimilar culture.

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Prejudice and bias of the Hispanic population include their reluctance to learn the English language, low socioeconomic status, misuse of government resources and assistance, working for considerably lower wages, and not official citizens of our country. It becomes a challenge when providing care for these patients when there is a language barrier, having to use a translator to communicate or educate the patient. The simple task of educating on a healthy diet may also be a challenge, especially because the Hispanic diet is not known to the healthiest.

Nurses also view the Hispanic population to be non-compliant with suggestions for a healthy lifestyle, diet, and medication regimen. There is an unrelenting bias that a majority of the Hispanic population does not have health insurance, therefore cannot afford medications that are prescribed. The first step to build effective culturally diverse relationships is showing self-awareness. This is achieved by being conscious using self-supervision of personal attitudes and beliefs concerning other races or cultures (Vargas & Wilson, 2011).

According to Vargas & Wilson (2011), “Self-supervision includes mindfulness; awareness, attentiveness to assumptions; sensitivity; and attention to potential sources of bias, judgments, and discomfort” (p. 106). When nurses and health care professionals increase their self-awareness and supervision, they are taking the first step toward exhibiting cultural competence in the workplace. Nurses must create a diverse, multicultural friendly environment to provide for the patient’s individual cultural beliefs, values, practices, and lifestyle.

Even though nurses may make personal biases and stereotypes, it is important to show sensitivity toward diverse cultures. It is essential for nurses to establish self-awareness of their responses and actions when communicating with diverse cultures. “Diversity self-awareness occurs when we reflect on our own cultural identity, realize our own cultural values and beliefs, and recognize the differences within our own cultural group(s)” (Jeffreys, 2008, p. 37). When nurses show cultural sensitivity, they are promoting positive outcomes and patient safety.

Our health care practices and modern medicine may not be viewed as the best treatment option if in conflict with the patient’s own cultural practices. It is the nurse’s professional and ethical responsibility to respect and implement patient’s cultural beliefs into the plan of care. Also, showing empathy and genuineness toward the patient’s feelings and beliefs will exhibit cultural competence. Knowledge of the Hispanic culture and traditions is suggested for better understanding to provide a culturally sensitive environment.

This is achieved by the nurse showing interest to what a culture’s beliefs consist and education in various cultural practices. Developing self-awareness of barriers to communicating with diverse cultures is essential when providing culturally competent care. The nurse must have knowledge of any cultural or communication barriers so he or she can focus on improving these areas. Self-reflection on barriers such as stereotypes, racism, language, and differences on viewpoints on the plan of care must be fully assessed.

Nurses initially must be aware of their own cultural beliefs and bias against diverse cultures (Leonard, 2001). Knowledge of diverse cultural practices will have a positive impact on achieving better patient health outcomes. When patients believe their culture is respected they will feel more comfortable to discuss health concerns. After gathering information on the Hispanic culture as a vulnerable population, research ascertains that the Hispanic population is more susceptible to specific health risks because of lack of health care and primary prevention.

Specific diseases are more prevalent such as diabetes, asthma, obesity, cancer, heart disease, liver disease, and HIV (Kanna, Fersobe, Soni, & Michelen, 2008). Primarily these are a result from lack of preventative education, health insurance, immunizations, and from language barriers. Research evidence shows that this vulnerable population has a lower median income when compared to other minority groups. There are a larger percentage of poverty and low levels of education among the Hispanic population. Demographics have a significant role with increasing the vulnerability of this population.

Segregation of cultures within a specific neighborhood, especially among immigrants will minimize opportunities to gain a higher socioeconomic status, higher paying jobs with health insurance, and access to adequate health care. Epidemiological research has been funded by the National Institute of Health to examine the prevalence of disease and health among Hispanic Americans. The USA Department of Health and Human Services as well as Healthy People 2010 both have organized education and prevention measures for reducing health disparities among Hispanics (Kanna, Fersobe, Soni, & Michelen, 2008).

Providing primary disease prevention and education on health promotion will be beneficial to reduce the rate of disease, illness, and mortality rates. The “Office of Minority Health” is a federal resource developed to assist limited English-proficient speaking minorities to seek access to culturally appropriate health care without language barriers. This resource is a branch of the US Department of Health and Human Services that assists health care professionals to educate minorities with health information such as risk factors, primary prevention, and identification of any cultural language barriers (The Office of Minority Health, 2013).

Optimal, cultural competent health care is delivered using effective language and communication to achieve the patient’s full understanding of prevention, illness, and the plan of care. Upon self-reflection of my research, the Hispanic population is found to be a highly vulnerable group who remain to be stereotyped as poor, uneducated, and having lack of health insurance. Language barriers are one of the many sources of most of the population’s disparities. This leads them to poor comprehension of education on primary health prevention, employment opportunities that provide health insurance, and follow-up care.

Measures are being made to overcome barriers to effective communication with patients having limited English proficiency with the assistance of federal and state law regulations (“Cultural sensitivity and awareness,” 2011). In conclusion, nurses and health care professionals have the essential need to be flexible when caring for diverse cultures. When nurses are culturally aware of differences and barriers to effective communication in their plan of care allows them provide optimal nursing care, thus promoting positive outcomes.

Cultural competency and awareness education should be integrated into every institution’s orientation and nursing school curricula. Education should be given for nurses to develop self-awareness of diverse cultures and to recognize their own personal biases in order to provide sensitive and respectful culturally competent nursing care.


  1. Cultural sensitivity and awareness in the delivery of health care. (2011, May). Committee Opinion, 493. Retrieved from http://www. acog. rg/Resources%20And%20Publications/Committee%20Opinions/Committee%20on%20Health%20Care%20for%20Underserved%20Women/Cultural%20Sensitivity%20and%20Awareness%20in%20the%20Delivery%20of%20Health%20Care. aspx
  2. Jeffreys, M. (2008). Dynamics of diversity: Becoming better nurses through diversity awareness. NSNA Imprint, 55(5), 36-41. Retrieved from http://www. nsna. org/Portals/0/Skins/NSNA/pdf/Imprint_NovDec08_Feat_Jeffreys. pdf
  3. Kanna, B. , Fersobe, S. , Soni, A. , & Michelen, W. (2008). Leading health risks, diseases and causes of mortality among Hispanics in United States of America (USA). Internet Journal of Health, 8(1).
  4. Leonard, B. J. (2001). Quality care celebrates diversity. Journal of Issues in Nursing, 6(2). Retrieved from http://www. nursingworld. org/MainMenuCategories/ANAMarketplace/ANAPeriodicals/OJIN/TableofContents/Volume62001/No2May01/NursingCareDiversity. aspx
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  6. Vargas, H. , & Wilson, C. M. (2011). Managing worldview influences: Self-awareness and self-supervision in a cross-cultural therapeutic relationship. Journal of Family Psychotherapy, 22(2), 97-113. http://dx. doi. org/10. 1080/08975353. 2011. 57768

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