Grand Canyon University
May 20, 2015
The Hispanic/Latino Patient
Understanding the differences in culture is an essential part of nursing, especially in a multicultural society such as the United States. Ethnicity tends to be associated with culture and not particularly with race. Culture can be defined as the characterization of populations by common ancestry, language and customs. Hispanics have three main racial backgrounds white, black, and Native American (U.S. Census Bureau, 2006). One of the fastest growing minorities in America is the Hispanic population. This fast growing population faces many prejudices and injustices for their inability to assimilate to American culture.
In 2009 Hispanics represented 15.8 percent of the population, according to the US Census Bureau, 65.5 percent of Hispanics are of Mexican descent, 8.6 percent are Puerto Ricans, 8.2 percent come from Central American, 6 percent are traveling from South American, 3.7 percent are coming from Cuba, and other 8 percent are from Hispanic descent (U.S. Census 2000). Approximately more than two-fifths of Hispanics in the United States are foreign born and many of these immigrants retain their cultural beliefs and behaviors with regards to illness and health care. The lack of inability to assimilate to a different culture and its customs, and being undocumented decreases the ability for this population to seek and obtain health care. This stems from keeping their culture, their holistic approach to well-being, and not learning the English language.
According to the Pew Research Center, the majority of Hispanic male adults in the United States lack a primary care physician. Another portion of these Hispanic immigrants report not having medical information from any medical personnel, others claim they get their medical information from the Internet, television, friends, family members or radio. (Pew Hispanic.org 2008). The research also found that the people that might not have a primary care physician are children, the uneducated, and those who cannot afford medical insurance. In this category the survey also placed undocumented citizens, less assimilated Hispanics, foreign born and those who only spoke Spanish, were less likely to have a primary care physician or a usual place to get medical care.
This population faces some cultural blocks to obtaining proper medical care. Cultural differences may decrease this population’s ability to recognize illnesses, when to see a doctor, expectations of care, and the inability to understand instructions on prescribed treatments. Other cultural barriers include the role of family, religion, spirituality, fatalistic views and the use of holistic medicine. Barriers to obtaining appropriate care can also be linked to the attitudes and responses from medical staff towards the Hispanic patients.
In Hispanic families even though it’s a male dominated world, the mother is in charge of the medical problems, when a family member gets sick the whole family becomes involved in the medical emergency. The elderly are respected for their knowledge and are often consulted for medical information. Fatalistic views are seen as sinful behavior, as a punishment from God. The holistic approach to medicine includes home remedies, a visit to a Curandero (has no medical training), traditional healer, midwives, herbalists, bone setter and on occasion the natural and supernatural (witchcraft, sorcery),
Even though the Hispanic/Latino population faces many barriers to proper healthcare they are entitled to autonomy. Autonomy is defined as a person’s right to make his or her own medical decisions. The law upholds an individual’s right to decide on his or her own medical care. Any patient has the right to receive and/or refuse treatment, even if that treatment would be beneficial or have the potential to save their live. An individual