By Oligens Sulo, MSN, RN
My inspiration to become a nurse began in 1998 when I volunteered to work with Kosovo refugees who sought shelter in Albania during the Kosovo War.
Joining a Norwegian association that built temporary shelters for refugees, I assumed the role of translator. Although I did not have a healthcare-related background at the time, working closely with the medical team made me realize the desire I had to care for people. I learned how to be compassionate and empowering to the sick. I also learned how to remain strong, calm and ready to serve at any moment. I connected with the refugees, and being able to translate helped me learn about medicine. While working with the physicians and nurses, I witnessed the caring and compassion they demonstrated in their roles as healthcare providers.
Seeing the people on trucks with kids, elderly and everyone else was simply heartbreaking. I did not mind waking up in the middle of the night to translate. That’s the least I could have done.
When my family and I came to the U.S. in 2000 from Durres, Albania, I entered the nursing program at Henry Ford Community College in Dearborn, Mich., earning my associate degree in nursing in 2005.
Being a nurse is the embodiment of having compassion for other cultures, as well as loving yourself and others. It means being culturally aware and having an understanding of how human caring is an essential part of nursing knowledge, the healing environment and the nurse’s own cutural and moral beliefs.
To me, cultural awareness is a journey that involves letting go of personal presumptions and assumptions about another person, regardless of race, ethnicity or color. Once we reach that awareness, we can then start the process of becoming culturally competent — an important element in the nursing profession.
Nurses also must consider the role morality plays in various cultures. Like culture shapes the way people derive meaning from illness, suffering and dying, morality shapes the way individuals or groups derive meaning from character development, behaviors, values and duties.
Being culturally competent and aware will increase our skills in providing care to our patients. Recognizing and acting upon our nursing assessments among diverse cultures as well as vulnerable ones is key to saving someone’s life. As healthcare providers, we must connect spiritually and holistically with our senses to embrace immense diversity in the melting pot of humanity at this pivotal time in history.
The power of cultural awareness and understanding the needs of everyone, no matter their background, allows us to bring wisdom from the past and gain knowledge for the future to help us learn to respect one another.
Oligens Sulo, MSN, RN, is assistant professor/skills lab coordinator at Roseman University, Henderson, Nev.
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