African American Heritage Paper

This paper explores the African American heritage and also identifies the significance of nurses being culturally aware, sensitive and competent when caring for people of African American heritage. Although these terms mentioned above are used interchangeably, they have different meanings. Cultural awareness is appreciating the external or material part of the culture, such as the music, arts, and physical characteristics, and dress. Cultural sensitivity is the personal attitudes toward the culture, such as not saying things that is offensive to someone from a different ethnic or cultural background (Purnell,2013, p.


Cultural competence is putting it all together; by using your knowledge to provide culturally congruent care and to be able to work effectively with people in cross- cultural situations. African Americans are the second largest ethnocultural groups in the United States; however, it is one of the most misunderstood cultures. This culture is so unique because they have mixed their cultures from their different homes of origin in Africa, along with American culture.

This paper overviews the history, communications, family roles, workforce issues, biocultural ecology, high-risk behaviors, pregnancy and childbearing practices, spirituality, health care practices, nutrition, and death rituals in the African American culture.

It is important that nurses see themselves as becoming culturally competent when caring for African Americans, and this involves incorporating cultural desire, cultural awareness, cultural knowledge, cultural skill, and cultural encounter with the people of African American heritage (Campinha-Bacote, 2009). 2 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE One of the largest minority groups in the United States, African Americans culture includes the various cultural traditions of different African ethnic groups.

“Data from the U. S. Department of Commerce, Bureau of the Census (2001) reveals that there are approximately 34,333,000 African Americans residing in the United States, representing 12. 1% of the total population” (Campinha-Bacote, 2009). They were forcibly imported into the United States as slaves from 1619 to 1860 (Purnell, 2013, p. 21). During slavery, they incorporated their culture from their homes of origin, and as a result, their culture included several cultural traditions of African ethnic groups. Many African Americans live in poverty due to discrimination and lack of proper education.

Most families of African American heritage value education, but they still struggle to have equal representation in the workplace, and are more likely to work in a hazardous environment, resulting in job related diseases and illness. Due to the lower-level positions and the difficulty in achieving higher opportunities in the workplace, some African Americans continue to feel discouraged. Nurses need to address discrimination and also issues that create ethnic or racial tension in the workplace.

English is the language spoken by African Americans, however, people of lower socio economical status communicate in an informal language known as African American English (AAE) (Purnell, 2013, p. 22). According to Campinha-Bacote (2009), the major problem that AAE speakers face is prejudice. Most people believe that AAE is inferior to Standard American English. As a result, African Americans who speak AAE are sometimes misinterpreted as being uneducated.

Nurses should be aware not to stereotype African Americans as only speaking AAE, and also not to stereotype them as uneducated based on the way they communicate. African Americans are expressive when 3 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE communicating and often use body languages to convey their feelings. Their expressive language and body movement can be misconstrued as anger or provocation.

Nurses need to be familiar with these characteristics and not misinterpret them. As a nurse, when interacting with African Americans for the first time, be sure to address them formally, until given permission to use other names, such as their first name. The African-American family has evolved over the last two decades and still continues to evolve. A person that is brought up in a traditional nuclear family is more likely to continue that tradition. Whereas, a person that is brought up in a single parent home is more likely to continue that same tradition.

Although these situations are more likely, they are not always so. To provide the most competent care, the best thing for the nurse to do would be to ask the patient in a non-judgmental way about family dynamics and also ask them what they would feel the most comfortable with when it comes to decision making for their care. The nurse should then accept this decision. Being knowledgeable about this cultural group’s family values and beliefs are crucial for providing care for the African American patient (Revell & McGhee, 2012).

A high percentage of African American households are matriarchal and fall below poverty level. With that being said, it is wise for nurses to make a point of including women when discussing health care issues. Nurses also should take note when dealing with homosexual individuals in this ethnic group, not to break confidence by sharing their lifestyles with others. This information can jeopardize and cause conflicts within the family and ruin relationships. Romantic relationships of the same-sex are not totally acceptable within this culture.

4 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE As in many culture, social status is important in African American community. African Americans are often met with negative atmosphere and prejudice attitudes based on their cultural background and skin color. Assumptions are made based on AAE spoken by some as an indication of unintelligence and the lack of education. These assumptions sometimes affect employment opportunities and job promotions. Nurses should be cautious not to fall into the stereotyping African Americans based on these characteristics.

African American skin color ranges from light to very dark due to the combination of a gene pool of more than 100 racial strains (Purnell, 2013, p. 25). When assessing for cyanosis in dark-skinned African Americans, be sure to pay attention to the oral mucosa or conjunctiva. When assessing for pallor, note the absence of the underlying red tones that give the skin it’s glow. Lastly, when observing for jaundice, be sure to look at the sclera of the eyes, the soles of the feet, and the palms of the hands for any yellow discoloration (25).

Health care is a luxury that low socioeconomic African Americans may not be able to afford. Meeting their daily needs takes priority over what they believe to be minor health issues. Consequently, diseases that could be treatable might end up being a life- threatening situation. African Americans are family orientated, because of this; some tend to initially seek medical attention from family members rather than going to a health care professional. Health care professionals need to be aware of this and work toward teaching and distributing health information via church and community centers. Most African American women are against abortion due to religious, cultural, and moral beliefs.

As a result, there is a delay in making a decision until it becomes too late. 5 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE Family support is crucial for pregnant African American women. Gichia (2000) studied and found out that African American women look for role models such as older female relatives, or if they have none, they look for someone who seemed like a mother to them, such as a neighbor. These role models can provide the pregnant woman and new mother with needed support. According to Abbyad & Robertson (2011), nurses caring for pregnant African American women need to be informed about the variety of ways in which childbirth preparation can occur, as in any other group of pregnant women.

Moreover, nurses need to consider the ways in which their attitudes and behaviors send unwelcoming messages to African American women seeking prenatal care or childbirth classes. These attitudes can discourage the African American woman in seeking further care. “Culturally competent care for the childbearing African American woman includes addressing all components of care including the use of complementary and alternative medicine” (Revell, 2012).

The childbirth nurse that is providing culturally competent care should be aware that the perceived norm is different for every family. African Americans are spiritual and are usually affiliated with some religious order. Historically, the church has played a major role in the life of African American culture. The church is a place where they can meet on common grounds. Faith and prayer is one of the most important attributes of Christian African Americans. They believe that God has the power to heal them, and he also has the power not to. They believe that whatever happens to them is according to God’s will. Food is very valuable in the African American culture.

It symbolizes health and wealth. It is derived from African descent. When food is offered to someone, it means that the person is valued; and by offering food, they are given you something that is 6 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE valuable to them. When it comes to nutrition, some African American diets are high in cholesterol and fats. According to James (2004), “African Americans will need information on basic nutrition topics such as serving sizes and reading food labels”. Nurses that work in African American communities should be involved in programs that promote healthy food choices.

These programs can specifically be developed for churches, neighborhood grocery stores, and local restaurants. “Health disparities among the African-American population include life expectancy, heart disease, hypertension, infant morality and morbidity rates, cancer, sickle cell diseases, HIV/AIDS, violence, type 2 diabetes mellitus, and asthma” (Campinha-Bacote, 2009). Unfortunately, they have the tendency to see a health care professional only when absolutely necessary. “Health is viewed as harmony with nature, whereas illness is seen as a disruption in this harmonic state due to demons” (Purnell, 2013, p. 33).

Recognize and support your patient cultural behaviors and believes to promote healthy interactions. In addition, always provide factual information about health practices that may not be understood due to their cultural believes and cultural differences. In conclusion, it is recommended that nurses familiarize themselves with cultural specific information in order to provide cultural competent care in African American community. Nurses should consider the following question: “In caring for African- American patients, have I asked myself the right questions.

” It is important for nurses to be aware of their biases and prejudices toward African Americans. In addition, they should possess the needed skills to conduct a cultural assessment while possessing knowledge of this cultural group (Campinha-Bacote, 2009). Lastly, nurses should always 7 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE have the desire to become culturally competent not just with African American patients, but any patient that has been placed in their charge. 8 A NURSING METHOD TO AFRICAN AMERICAN HERITAGE Resources Abbyad, C. , & Robertson, T. (2011).

African American Women’s Preparation for Childbirth From the Perspective of African American Health-Care Providers. Journal Of Perinatal Education, 20(1), 45-53. doi:10. 1891/1058-1243. 20. 1. 45 Campinha-Bacote, J. (2009). Culture and diversity issues. A culturally competent model of care for African Americans. Urologic Nursing, 29(1), 49-54. Gichia, J. E, (2000), Mothers and others: African-American women’s preparation for motherhood. The American Journal of Maternal Child Nursing, 25(2), 86-91, James, D. (2004).

Factors influencing food choices, dietary intake, and nutrition-related attitudes among African Americans: application of a culturally sensitive model. Ethnicity & Health, 9(4), 349-367. Purnell, L. D. (2009). People of African American Heritage. Guide to culturally competent health care (2nd ed. , p. 21-35). Philadelphia: F. A. Davis Co. Revell, M. A. , & McGhee, M. N. (2012). Evolution of the African American Family. International Journal Of Childbirth Education, 27(4), 44-48. Revell, M. A. (2012). Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in the African American Culture. International Journal Of Childbirth Education, 27(3), 55-59.

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