There are many health disparities and inequalities in healthcare. In 1900, 88% of the population of the United States was made up of white people. In July 2015 the United States Census Bureau reported 77% of individuals identify as white only. As the population of people that identify as white decline, the population in other groups grow. Not only is our minority population growing and changing in healthcare, but extending beyond race or ethnicity to include sex, sexual identity, age, disability, socioeconomic status, and geographic location. In addition, The World Healthcare Organization identified social determinants that are responsible for differences in disease rates, early death, and preventative care. These include conditions in which persons are born, grow, live, and work. All of these potential differences can affect patient outcomes and must be recognized as a key component in delivering patient care. These differences in our population have a direct relationship with patient healthcare needs, and there is a direct relationship between patient engagement and positive outcomes. Often healthcare providers have the false idea that by not directly addressing differences or asking questions, they are being respectful of the differences. They may believe that it is rude or disrespectful to ask certain questions; however, this practice can lead to omission of information that can negatively impact patient care.
The vast differences in our patient population will serve as the background for the need to address cultural competence in nurse continuing education and nursing education. Several strategies will be shared that can be implemented into nurse education curriculums and ultimately improve patient outcomes.
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