National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services Standards (CLAS) are a set of guidelines developed by the US Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) with the aim of promoting equity and improving the quality of care for individuals from diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds (HHS, n.d.). These standards are highly relevant to the field of nursing, as they align with many expectations and standards of professional nursing practice.
In the field of nursing, cultural competence has emerged as a crucial aspect of providing quality care. It involves the ability of healthcare professionals to understand and respond to the cultural and linguistic needs of patients, while also taking into account their beliefs, values, and preferences (Campinha-Bacote, 2007). The CLAS standards provide valuable guidance for nurses and healthcare organizations to enhance cultural competence and deliver culturally sensitive care.
One way that nurses and their peers can utilize these CLAS standards in their areas of nursing practice is by incorporating them into their policies and procedures. By aligning their organizational practices with the CLAS standards, nurses can ensure that care services are equitable, effective, and respectful of diverse cultural and linguistic backgrounds. For example, nurses can advocate for the development of policies that promote language services, such as professional interpretation or translation services, to overcome language barriers experienced by patients with limited English proficiency. This ensures that patients can fully comprehend and actively participate in their care.
In addition, nurses can use the CLAS standards to guide their interactions with patients and their families. By incorporating cultural assessments into their nursing practice, nurses can gather information about the patient’s cultural beliefs, values, and practices. This knowledge can help nurses tailor their care plans to meet the cultural and linguistic needs of the patient, promoting patient-centered care (Douglas et al., 2014). For instance, nurses may provide culturally appropriate dietary options for patients who adhere to specific cultural or religious dietary practices.
Moreover, nurses can collaborate with interdisciplinary teams to promote cultural competence throughout the organization. This can involve participating in diversity training programs, where healthcare professionals learn about different cultures, recognize biases, and develop strategies to overcome cultural barriers (Douglas et al., 2014). By engaging in such training, nurses can enhance their cultural awareness and sensitivity, ensuring that they provide culturally competent care to all patients.
Furthermore, nurses can advocate for the integration of culturally sensitive care practices into the broader healthcare system. This can involve working with organizational leadership to develop and implement policies that align with the CLAS standards, such as promoting the recruitment and retention of diverse healthcare professionals. By having a diverse workforce that reflects the communities they serve, healthcare organizations can improve patient satisfaction and health outcomes (Smedley et al., 2003). Nurses can also support the development of culturally tailored educational materials and resources that cater to the specific needs of their patient population.
To improve cultural competence in their organization, a nursing action that can be incorporated is the establishment of a cultural competency committee or task force. This committee can consist of nurses, healthcare professionals, and administrators who are committed to promoting cultural competence within the organization. The committee can conduct periodic cultural competency assessments to identify areas for improvement and develop strategies to enhance cultural competence among staff members (Douglas et al., 2014). They can also facilitate educational sessions and workshops to increase cultural awareness and sensitivity among nurses and other healthcare team members.
In conclusion, the CLAS standards provide important guidance for nurses and healthcare organizations seeking to promote equity and provide quality care to individuals from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds. By incorporating these standards into their policies, procedures, and practice, nurses can improve cultural competence within their organizations. This can involve utilizing language services, conducting cultural assessments, participating in diversity training, advocating for culturally sensitive care practices, and establishing cultural competency committees. By working towards cultural competence, nurses can ensure that patients receive care that is respectful, effective, and meets their unique cultural and linguistic needs.