A Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) is responsible for a number of factors regarding a patient—including physical, emotional, and mental well-being. Two pivotal aspects of mental and emotional well-being are issues of culture and religion. Culture and religion are factors entirely unique to each patient, and both may bring a series of challenges and difficulties for the patient’s care providers. As a CNA, you are expected to handle culture and religion issues with kindness, respect, and understanding.
“Culture” is defined as the arts, ideas, and behaviors of a certain ethnic or geographical group. The cultures of one portion of the United States, for example, may differ greatly from another. The most common cultural construct you may run into as a CNA is the construct of cultural ideas—especially as they relate to dealing with healthcare professionals, overall lifestyle, and child rearing.
When dealing with cultural concerns, keep an open mind and respect the potential strength of any cultural constructs. Cultural beliefs (including fears and misgivings) run deep and may have been shared over a series of generations. They are neither easily relinquished nor appreciated when these beliefs are belittled or cast aside. As a CNA, you must offer sound medical advice and care while taking cultural beliefs and concerns into account. This may be as simple as traditional dietary behaviors, or as complicated as a long-held disbelief in or mistrust of doctors and conventional medicine.
Religion is as deeply ingrained—if not more so—than culture and may be more difficult to work with. As a CNA, you must be considerate and understanding regarding religious beliefs. Do not belittle or ignore any concerns brought about by any given religion.
Religious issues may be small, such as dietary restrictions, or large, such as the refusal to accept a blood transfusion. Seek to work with religious beliefs, rather than simply working around or in spite of religious difficulties. When consulting with a patient with religious restrictions, listen to all of the patient’s concerns before proceeding. Be open to explaining any misunderstood or preconceived notions regarding medicine and healthcare to the patient. Make it clear that you, as a medical health professional, are working for the patients, not against them. Treat religious beliefs with respect regardless of any personal feelings toward a belief system, and work with the patient to achieve all health goals.
Tolerance and understanding are key aspects of both cultural and religious harmony among CNAs and patients. Though it may be tempting to dismiss immediately any false notions regarding the medical profession, an effective and successful CNA takes the time to listen to all concerns regarding religion and culture, and works to assist the patient with overcoming obstacles brought about by the thoroughly ingrained beliefs found in religion and culture. Because religious rights and cultural beliefs are protected, failure to adhere to all laws and regulations regarding religion and culture may result in legal difficulties stemming from discrimination. While treating religious and cultural diversity with deference is a pivotal aspect of being a caring, effective CNA, these beliefs are also protected legal rights, and hence should be treated as such.