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Alvernia University Healthcare Degree Students Celebrate Cultural Diversity

Date: 5/9/2013



Nursing students join others in “Worlds Intersect” cultural luncheon

Alvernia University freshman nursing student Rixye Melendez knows first-hand the importance of cultural awareness and sensitivity. 

Born in Honduras, Central America, she lived in New York City before moving to Reading in 2006. Through extensive interaction with people of many backgrounds throughout her life, Melendez has developed an appreciation for cultural differences and understands the need to be respectful of cultural traditions that are different from her own.

She believes that understanding will serve her especially well in her nursing career.

“I think it’s important for everyone to be culturally aware and sensitive, but it’s especially important for nurses,” Melendez said. “Once we graduate, we’ll be caring for patients from all over the world."

Melendez, along with other members of her Transcultural Nursing class, participated recently in a cultural luncheon at Alvernia University. Students of many different cultures participated by providing food, entertainment and items such as clothing or musical instruments that represented their heritages.

In addition to students studying toward healthcare degrees, students in education, psychology and music programs also helped to plan and run the “Worlds Intersect” luncheon.

Dr. Theresa M. Adams, assistant professor of nursing who teaches a Transcultural Nursing class at Alvernia, has helped to organize a cultural luncheon for nursing students for eight years. It is imperative, Adams said, that nurses and others working toward healthcare degrees develop cultural sensitivity and an appreciation for those of different cultures.

“We have a diverse population that is ever growing, and we have to learn about them in order to be able to care for them,” Adams said. “Learning about other cultures increases the confidence of nursing students and makes them better at taking care of people from around the world.”

Christine Kinney is a third-year nursing student at Alvernia and a member of Adams’ Transcultural Nursing class — a class, she says, that has made her more aware of how little people of different cultures tend to know about one another, and the importance of recognizing different traditions and attitudes.

“The last thing I’d want to do as a nurse if to offend someone or do something that’s going to make a patient uncomfortable,” Kinney said. “We need to build and maintain beneficial relationships with our patients in order to give them the kind of care they need and deserve, and we can’t do that if we don’t understand them.”

Culturally sensitive issues for nurses might include diet, prayer rituals, death rituals, refusal of medical procedures based on religious belief, modesty, communication, family organization and others. In an increasingly multi-cultural society, it is important that these and other issues be carefully explored and considered, Adams said.

“It’s especially important for nursing students, but it’s important for the entire university,” Adams said. “Diversity is part of our mission. It’s part of the Franciscan ideal of ‘knowledge joined with love.’”

Alvernia University is known for its healthcare degree programs, and recently implemented a Healthcare Sciences major. The mission of the Healthcare Science program, as well as other healthcare degrees, is to prepare graduates to work in a changing healthcare environment while becoming engaged in their communities. The program provides education from the Catholic and liberal arts traditions, combining professional education with ethical values

Alvernia University makes it possible to earn healthcare degrees by assuring flexibility, affordability and attainability. To learn more about healthcare degrees offered at Alvernia, visit www.alvernia.edu.

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