Health and Illness in Diverse Cultures

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Health and Illness in Diverse Cultures

In the Think Cultural Health case study video “Cultural and Religious Beliefs,” the patient in question, Nardira Ansari, is a Muslim woman who believes in the skill of Western medicine but who also strongly believes in her right to uphold her cultural heritage, specifically, that she should not have to remove her hijab in the presence of a man not her husband (HHS, 2017). The doctor filling in is not supportive or respectful of this belief, though her own doctor is, and when her own doctor arrives, willingly completes the appointment, respecting her beliefs and offering to teach the fill in doctor about those beliefs, the implication being that, by doing so, he will have the knowledge so that he will not engage in culturally insensitive behaviors with another patient (HHS, 2017). Health and Illness in Diverse Cultures

The culture of an individual is ingrained into the individual, and the patient should be treated with care and respect by clinical staff; if the clinician wishes to command the respect of the patient, requiring that the individual adhere to the directions provided by the clinician, the clinician should grant the patient that same care and respect regarding his or her lifestyle and preferences (Spector, 2002). Healthcare professionals are required to treat patients with dignity and respect, neither of which can be given if the patient’s cultural beliefs are dismissed by the treating clinician (Holland, 2017). Researchers have shown that adopting a culturally conscious healthcare model has worked to provide patients with the care and support that they need in order to create a beneficial healthcare relationship and that attention to the cultural beliefs of the individual has worked to in turn boost the patient’s overall health status (Adames, Chavez-Duenas, Fuentes, Salas, & Perez-Chavez, 2014). Health and Illness in Diverse Cultures


The United States Census Bureau (2016) estimated that, as of July 2016, there were more than 323 million people living in the United States. The Pew Research Center noted that, as of 2015, there were approximately 3.3 million people who practiced the Muslim faith living within the United States, and these numbers are expected to continue to grow (Mohamed, 2016). Given the substantial population of the U.S., and the Muslim community therein, it is necessary to work to continually practice culturally respective behaviors, learning about the cultures of others within one’s own community in order to ensure that no inadvertent slight occurs. Education and awareness of different cultural beliefs can go a long way toward working to mitigate these potential concerns (Holland, 2017).

During my own time as a nurse, I have run into many different cultural and religious barriers. A coworker of mine is Muslim and must take time out to pray at specific times during the day. He is open to discuss the matter with others, but he makes it a point not to be intrusive, using an unoccupied room to do so at specific intervals. As the offices are all internal, the doctor running the clinic made it a point to place compass directions unobtrusively at the top of each wall in each room. Another coworker complained that this was preferential treatment. I stood up for my coworker, explaining that it wasn’t preferential, it was just common courtesy. As my other coworker continued to bicker about the matter, I simply took it up with the doctor who ran the office. The complaining coworker was reprimanded, and the second time it occurred, that person was let go. Health and Illness in Diverse Cultures

Even though I do not practice that religion, care and respect should be afforded to all, and if my other coworker wasn’t willing to give that respect to their coworker, they would not have given it to a patient either, and that is not an appropriate workplace attitude, particularly in a healthcare field. In order to decrease the likelihood that I will make an error with a patient, I work to read up on different cultures, attempting to ensure that I understand, at least enough to be able to respect those beliefs. It is possible that I will make a mistake one day, but I will always strive to operate in the most respectful manner possible, with all patients.

Adames, H., Chavez-Dueñas, N., Fuentes, M., Salas, S., & Perez-Chavez, J. (2013). Integration of Latino/a cultural values into palliative health care: A culture centered model. Palliative and Supportive Care, 12(02), 149-157.
HHS. (2017). Cultural and religious beliefs. Think Cultural Health. Retrieved from
Holland, K. (2017). Cultural awareness in nursing and health care (3rd ed.). New York, NY: Routledge.
Mohamed, B. (2016). A new estimate of the U.S. Muslim population. Pew Research Center. Retrieved from
Spector, R. (2002). Cultural diversity in health and illness. Journal Of Transcultural Nursing, 13(3), 197-199.
Health and Illness in Diverse Cultures