Cultural differences between the nurses and patients can affect patient assessment, patient outcome and the overall patient compliance. Lack of cultural competence is usually a hindrance to the interaction between nurses and patients and may sometimes trickle down to the sick persons and their families (Andrews and Boyle, 2008). With the rise in global mobility, the patient population is increasingly diverse, and it becomes necessary for nurses to familiarize themselves well with different cultures to be able to serve patients satisfactorily.
Italy has a unique and interesting culture starting with its language. Italian is the nation’s official language with more than 93% of the population being indigenous Italian speakers. Over 50% of the Italians speak regional dialects as a vernacular language, though, most of the dialects are mutually unintelligible and they are, thus, regarded as separate languages, which are not recognized officially. Friulian is one such dialect, spoken by more than 600,000 people in Italy’s North East.
Italians are enthusiastic but very formal people, as evidenced by their greetings. A handshake and a direct eye contact are common among strangers, but air kissing and a pat at the back for men suffice strengthen the relationships. Italians also prefer face-to-face contacts with demeanor, which is very important to the Italians. The first impressions matter a lot and the impressions one gets during the first meeting last forever. They are also very expressive in communication, and they tend to be very emotional, wordy, demonstrative, and eloquent, and, mostly, they use hand, and facial gestures to emphasize a point (Lonergan and Scattergood, 2006).
The above cultural tendencies in Italy will greatly affect the nursing profession both for nurses of local and foreign origin. As stated above, Italian is the national language, but there are many other dialects that the native Italians use to communicate with each other. Even the Italians understand not all of these dialects. A nurse would, therefore, have to learn several dialects to be able to communicate effectively with the Italians. In addition, foreign nurses do not have an option but to learn Italian since it is the main language. It is unlikely to meet someone who does not speak Italian since it is taught in schools.
Nurses also need to understand the communication and interaction tendencies of the Italian people. Air kisses on the cheek starting with the left cheek to the right cheek is for people who are already familiar with each other. Therefore, nurses should learn to restrict their greetings to a handshake if they are meeting the patients for the first time. Italians value the first impression, nurses have to present a good impression, otherwise the interaction between them and patients will be affected. This can also affect the interaction between the nurses and the patients’ families. It is also important for the nurses to know that the family is the cornerstone of the social structure and it is the family that supports and provides emotional and financial support to each other. Nurses should, thus, not dismiss any member of the family concerned about the wellbeing of the patients. In addition, nurses need to understand that Italians are very expressive, emotional and demonstrative, and they should not be surprised with such kind of communication from the Italians.
Cultural competence is a key aspect of nursing since it greatly affects the provider-patient relationship (Berenson, 2010). A culturally competent nurse is able to build patient’s trust, and it improves the relationship between the two. Therefore, it is important that all nurses understand the traditions of the community they are serving to enable them not to make misguided assumptions. It is also important to note that attitude a nurse has on patients or their culture can affect the healing process of the patient.