Throughout the world there are many cultures that vary in customs, beliefs, languages and ideals. In order to provide the highest level of care it is important that those in the nursing profession are culturally competent. A key component in becoming culturally competent is self-awareness of one’s own culture. This paper contains a reflection of my own culture and will outline my family values, beliefs and traditions, my personal identity and values, and my diversity attitudes.
Family Values, Beliefs and Traditions
All throughout my life I have taken great pride in being apart of a large Irish Catholic family. My maternal grandparents met and fell in love in Kerry County, Ireland. They moved to St. Paul, Minnesota in 1948 and soon started a family of six girls and three boys. My paternal grandparents share a similar story as they came to America in 1950 from Acton, Ireland. They started a smaller family of two boys in Minnetonka, Minnesota. My parents, Colleen and Mark, didn’t have quite the same love story and never got married. I was born in 1993 in St. Paul, Minnesota and lived with my mom in Cottage Grove, Minnesota my entire life. In 2010 my mom got married to my stepfather Bill and I gained a stepsister and stepbrother. My dad then married my stepmom Suzanne, after seventeen years of dating, and I gained another stepbrother.
Although my parents were never together I am one of the few children who didn’t have to experience a nasty relationship between separated parents. They both played a very active role in raising me and made many parenting decisions together. It wasn’t always easy for my mom as she was single and worked full time. My grandparents soon moved into a home that was five miles from where I was living in Cottage Grove. They became my primary daycare and everyday while my mom was at work, I was there. My grandma was the one who would put curlers in my hair, iron my school uniform and gets me to the bus stop on time. While my parents did an amazing job raising me, when my grandparents passed away I really felt as though I lost my other mom and dad.
Due to the fact that a single mom raised me we have grown incredibly close over my life. She is fiercely independent and when I turned eighteen she put a lot of trust that I would make good decisions regarding my own life. When it comes to family matters, she is still the one that makes almost all the decisions. I turn to her with not only important matters, but also really anything as dumb as I got the wrong order at Starbucks. She is my best friend and my rock and there isn’t one day that we don’t talk on the phone at least three times.
Towards the end of my grandmothers life she got very advanced Alzheimer’s and struggled with remembering things that occurred anytime after she turned 30. With that being said, she had so many stories to ramble on about when she was younger. My favorite story is how she met my grandpa. She was on date at a pub in Ireland with a member of the band that was playing that night. She was dancing alone and my grandpa came up to her, asked her to dance and told her that she looked like the woman he was going to marry. Of course she thought he was insane at the time, but three short years later they were getting married.
As I mentioned previously, I have a very large extended family on my mom’s side and family gatherings are always very hectic, dysfunctional, and yet fun. When my mom was younger all her siblings would always draw a name from a hat for which they would buy Christmas presents. Around 35 years ago my Uncle Kevin didn’t have money to buy a gift so he took one his ugly sweaters and wrapped it up and gave it to my Uncle Tim. The next year for Christmas my Uncle Tim gave the sweater to my mom and the tradition has been going on since then. I got it when I turned 18, as do all of my other cousins. While this seems very silly, it means a lot to my family as my Uncle Kevin passed away in 2002 from an unexpected heart attack.
Personal Identity and Values
When I was born I was given the name Katelin Marie Bresnahan and when I was confirmed I became Katelin Marie Elizabeth Bresnahan. As long as I can remember my family has always called me Katelin, but all my friends refer to me as Katie. When I am greeted and addressed by strangers I prefer Katie because it is much more relaxed and informal. When I think of being called Katelin I usually think of my mom yelling at me! Although throughout college I have had my professors call me Katelin and I am coming to prefer that more when I am in the professional setting.
With that being said, I would like to emphasize on the words “professional setting”. Throughout my entire life I have been a feminist and I believe that women do not just belong in the home, but in the workplace as well. Women and men should take equal parts in household chores, raising children and also paying the bills. A woman who was not only a fantastic mother but also worked full time at a successful business raised me. I was taught that just because I’m a woman does not make me doomed for an apron, but it also shouldn’t give me a sense of entitlement.
For the fear of rambling too much about this, I want to present a quote from Emma Watson at the United Nations Headquarters (2014): We don’t often talk about men being imprisoned by gender stereotypes but I can see that that they are and that when they are free, things will change for women as a natural consequence. If men don’t have to be aggressive in order to be accepted women won’t feel compelled to be submissive. If men don’t have to control, women won’t have to be controlled. Both men and women should feel free to be sensitive. Both men and women should feel free to be strong… It is time that we all perceive gender on a spectrum not as two opposing sets of ideals.
While many of my friends may immediately define me as a feminist I define myself in many additional ways. One of the main ways that I have always defined myself is that I’m intelligent and value my education immensely. I am dedicated, yet very stubborn and sometimes stuck in my ways. I have gone through a lot of mental health issues and the journey through that has left me with being very satisfied with who I am. I am unique in the way that I truly beat to the sound of my own drum and really don’t care what other people have to say about me. My family members are much more soft spoken and often times tell me that I have a much “bigger” personality than the rest of them. I often times embarrass my mom with some of the things I say, which brings me to one of my favorite dimensions of my identity; being a daughter. If I can be half the parent one day that they are I will be very satisfied.
In some of my darker years I was overcome with depression, anxiety and eating disorder issues. Now I am one of the happiest and confident people I know and that is something I am incredibly proud of. I know whom I am and am consistently growing as a person. While I am proud to be a feminist, it makes me slightly sad that there is even a need for feminism. Feminism is defined as “The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities. It is the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes” (UN Women, 2014). The fact that this equality is not present in 2015 and there are literally campaigns for feminism fighting for equality makes me disappointed in our culture.
I believe that diversity is so much more than surface qualities of race or gender. Diversity encompasses everything about an individual that makes them unique. It’s also about understanding and respecting that everyone comes from different walks of life. These walks of life shape different opinions, religious beliefs, political beliefs, sexual orientations and life experiences.
I went to a private elementary school and was surrounded by primarily white privileged children and was not exposed to much diversity until I was around twelve years old. When I was twelve I joined a soccer team and quickly became best friends with a girl named Kaiyah. When I was fourteen I had the privilege to travel to Costa Rica with Kaiyah and an immense amount of her extended family. I remember feeling very overwhelmed and slightly frustrated with the language barrier. I had a chance to eat her grandma’s home cooked meals everyday and they were amazing. In Costa Rica all the women would always wake up very early, go to the market to get fresh food and spend the entire day preparing it. I just imagined how insane it would be if my mom went to Cub Foods every morning to get food. The longer I was there, the easier it was to communicate as I found gestures and short sentences to be very beneficial.
With that being said, Kaiyah is still my best friend today. Many of her family has since then moved to America and I have had the chance to be invited to many family gatherings and experience what they call “the crazy Latino’s”. These experiences that I have had really had a positive affect on my behavior toward people from other cultures. It taught me that just because we can’t communicate in ways that I’m used to, doesn’t mean that what they are saying isn’t worth hearing.
Throughout the years I have learned that something Hispanic’s really value is hospitality and they go out of their way to make guests feel as comfortable as possibly. I have always been treated with so much respected and am always greeted with lots of food and hugs. Although the language barrier was there, they always made an effort to try and engage in conversation with me. All these things made me feel so comfortable with them. In addition to Kaiyah, I became friends with a Hmong girl named Trinh when I was in high school. The first time I ever went to her house, her parents disregarded the fact that I was there and only spoke to Trinh. It was incredibly awkward and I felt as though I was intruding. Trinh later told me that many people in the Hmong culture are very protective of their own and fear that associating with other cultures would cause them to lose their identity. That was very intimidating and made me feel very uncomfortable.
I really don’t believe that cultural competence is some that can be taught in a textbook, but rather something that is gained through experience. In our most recent exam we learned about an acronym called C.R.A.S.H., which will be very beneficial to keep in mind while meeting those different than myself. The ‘c’ involves many aspects of communication including the understanding of language variations, appreciating the individuals, accurate interpretation of volume of speech as well as nonverbal cues. The ‘r’ stands for respecting all the differences in the culture and ‘a’ stands for being able to assess and affirm differences.
The ‘s’ involves being self aware and sensitive to the other culture and the ‘h’ states that we should do all of this with humanity. Additionally is important to identify family roles and how they function as a unit. In order to provide the highest level of care it is important that a nurse be culturally aware of each patient they encounter. This would create a much smaller amount of health discrepancies and would benefit patients daily. Cultural competence is possible by integrating personal experiences, knowledge, research databases and effective communication in the profession of nursing.
In order to provide the highest level of care it is important that a nurse be culturally aware of each patient they encounter. This would create a much smaller amount of health discrepancies and would benefit patients daily. Cultural competence is possible by integrating personal experiences, knowledge, research databases and effective communication in the profession of nursing. Throughout this paper I overviewed my personal experiences by examining my family values, beliefs and traditions, my personal identity and values, and my diversity attitudes. I look forward to growing in cultural competence throughout my nursing profession.
UN Women Headquarters. (2014). Emma Watson: Gender equality is your issue too. Retrieved from: http://www.unwomen.org/en/news/stories/2014/9/emma-watson-gender-equality-is-your-issue-too