Culture and Diversity in the Nursing Classroom: An Impact on Communication and Learning

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Abstract: This article discusses culture and diversity in the nursing classroom and its impact on communication and learning. Today's nursing classrooms are heavily populated with students from many ethnic, psychological and sociocultural backgrounds. It is necessary that nurse educators recognize that many communication patterns value diversity, and is a major support in many learning styles of their students. Without a thorough understanding of diversity and communication among cultures, major challenges exist for both professors and students. The nursing curriculum and classroom materials should portray diversity so that all subject matter reflects a range of cultural perspectives. Higher education curricula are probably the most diverse in the world, and with a global perspective, and the United States being a "melting pot," these curricula will become even more diverse in the future. Nursing education has the responsibility to teach students how to communicate on a global scale. These global models of communication will assist students to successfully enter professional nursing practice with strong communication skills and a level of cultural competence that professional nurses need to know.

Key Words: Communication, Culture, Diversity, Education, Ethnicity, Learning

Nurse educators are continuously seeking ways to deliver content of their particular curriculum, while preparing students for such complexities as cultural diversity and communication in the field of nursing. Not only is knowledge about learning and teaching essential For nurse educators, but also the importance of understanding that students represent many cultures and come with a variety of viewpoints regarding personal traditions, values and political ideals. These cultural perspectives are so diverse that they may serve as communication models, which impact upon the students' learning ability. As a nurse educator, many questions arise concerning how to introduce intercultural communication into the nursing curriculum. Students will be providing instruction and care to persons from diverse cultures. Some of the questions include "how might a student be exposed to other cultures?" and "what would be the effect of personal perceptions such as a value system, religion, and family on cultural diversity?" Communication is intertwined with culture through all of human life, and is often taken for granted. There are theories of human communication where culture and language show ways in which communication patterns do create and reflect the reality of a social group, society, or culture (Littlejohn, 1989, p. 129). Communication may be defined as an interactive process where humans influence some form of change in another's attitude, belief or behavior. For humans, communication is one of the most pervasive, important and complex clusters of behavior (Littlejohn, 1989, p.3). Language is an important expression of communication, whether verbal or nonverbal, is a necessary act in the process of learning. Learning is that part of the communication process that assists in the acquisition of knowledge or skill. An opportunity for creative learning among the various cultures must be provided, although this focus may not always be accepted by the traditional teacher. Learning the nursing process, procedures a theoretical nursing framework and research can be fostered through exploring, manipulating, questioning, experimenting, testing and modifying information, rather than by accepting an educator who does not understand culture or diversity as the final authority. A nurse educator who embraces culture and values diversity in the classroom should promote competency in communication, diversity appreciation and learning.

Culture has been around as long as people have inhabited the world. Definitions of culture vary depending on the literature. One must reach back and get the cultural meaning from an earlier time. Culture may be that unique achievement of a human group that distinguishes it from other groups. …