As a travel nurse, you constantly move from one assignment to the next. You’re thrust into new environments where cultural differences are frequent. It’s one of the exciting things about being a travel nurse, but navigating cultural competence in travel nursing can be intimidating. 

Missteps in understanding cultural nuances can have serious consequences in healthcare, leading to compromised care. However, there are proactive steps that you can take in building cultural competency. 

In this article, we’ll explore the importance of cultural competence in travel nursing. We will also provide eight actionable ways for travel nurses to enhance their cultural competence and deliver better patient-centered care. 


Table of Contents



What Is Cultural Competency in Travel Nursing?

Cultural competency in healthcare refers to the ability to acknowledge, understand, and effectively interact with individuals with diverse cultural backgrounds. It involves recognizing and respecting the beliefs, values, and practices of patients regardless of their:

  • Race
  • Ethnicity
  • Religion
  • Socioeconomic status
  • Gender
  • Sexual orientation
  • Any other cultural identifiers

In the context of travel nursing, cultural competence takes on an added significance due to the frequent exposure to new and varied cultural landscapes. Travel nurses must adapt quickly to new cultural climates while remaining sensitive and respectful of their patients’ diverse backgrounds. 


What Is an Example of Cultural Competence in Nursing?

Cultural competence in nursing involves respecting diverse backgrounds. Examples include adapting to communication styles, incorporating cultural traditions into care plans, and seeking guidance from others such as interpreters. 

Some specific examples include:

  • African American patients may have mistrust due to historical healthcare disparities. Building trust through open communication is crucial. 
  • Jehovah’s Witnesses do not accept blood transfusions due to religious beliefs. Nurses must respect this by offering alternative treatments and ensuring informed consent. 
  • In Hispanic cultures, family is heavily involved in healthcare decisions. Nurses should engage family members and include them in care discussions with patient consent. 
  • In East Asian cultures, individuals often display stoicism and may not directly express pain. Nurses should be attuned to nonverbal cues indicating discomfort. 


cultural competency in travel nursing


Why Is Cultural Competence Important in Nursing Care?

Cultural competence fosters trust and rapport with patients, which ultimately enhances patient outcomes. Nurses who recognize and respect cultural differences can better connect with patients, leading to stronger patient-provider relationships and improved healthcare experiences. Neglecting cultural differences can lead to incorrect medical decisions and overlooked information crucial for care. 


Why Do Travel Nurses Need To Be Hyperaware of Cultural Competence?

The beauty of travel nursing lies in the chance to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds — including patients, other nurses, and providers. 

As travel nurses navigate new settings, they have the opportunity to interact with various cultures more frequently. This amplifies the importance of cultural competence.

Imagine your next travel nursing assignment is in New Mexico, where there is a high population of Native Americans. Taking the initiative to research and learn about a Native American tribe’s culture can greatly enhance your ability to provide culturally sensitive care.

While this can feel daunting, it’s important to understand that you are not expected to be an expert in every culture. It would be impossible. The essential component is recognizing and respecting cultural differences while treating everyone with dignity. 

Embrace travel nursing as an exciting learning opportunity to learn about new cultures and broaden your cultural competency skills. By doing so, you’ll not only enhance patient relationships but also gain a richer perspective on the world. 


8 Ways To Help Build Cultural Competence in Travel Nursing

Given the diverse backgrounds encountered in travel nursing, it’s crucial to enhance cultural competence. By implementing these strategies, travel nurses can provide better care to their patients. 


#1: Explore Alternative Communication Methods

In healthcare, effective communication is vital, especially when language barriers exist. Ideally, there would be bilingual staff or translators available. 

However, travel nurses may need to get creative. Some strategies for communicating with patients with a language barrier include:

  • Nonverbal communication: When language barriers exist, it’s even more important to make sure to use noncommunication skills. Simple gestures, facial expressions, and body language can convey empathy, understanding, and reassurance. 
  • Video technology: Utilizing video technology can expand access to translating services. Discuss with your administrator about the possibility of using video translating services.
  • Google Translate: While Google Translate is a convenient tool and is available in over 80 languages, it’s essential to use it with caution. One study found that it was only 57% accurate in the use of medical contexts. 

As a general rule, you should avoid using family members. Not only could this be a breach of confidentiality, but one study showed that in 23-52% of instances, ad hoc translators like family members incorrectly interpreted medical information. 


#2: Practice Active Listening

You’re bustling through your shift, juggling multiple patients’ needs. As you swiftly enter one room to assess pain levels for medication administration, the patient rates their pain as a 2 on a scale of 1-10. The instinct is to note it and move on.

But something compels you to pause. You spend a few extra minutes engaging with the patient. Through active listening, you uncover cultural nuances that influence their perception of pain. By taking the extra time, you build trust and rapport — enhancing the overall quality of care.

Active listing is invaluable in nursing, especially when navigating cultural differences. While it’s tempting to rush through tasks, taking time to truly listen to a patient’s needs fosters trust and understanding. 


#3: Embrace Diversity

Travel nursing offers a unique opportunity to immerse yourself in diverse cultures. It’s what makes travel nursing so exciting! 

Embracing this diversity enriches both your personal and professional life. Take the time to learn about different cultures. Many people love to share insights when asked. You’ll be surprised by the wealth of knowledge and experiences you gain, enhancing your ability to provide patient-centered care. 

You should also take time to embrace the diversity of the local culture of your travel assignment. Treating this assignment as an adventure is one of the reasons why travel nurses are so happy. Exploring new environments, trying local cuisines, and participating in local cultural festivals all contribute to the enriching experience of being a travel nurse. 

Search for exciting travel nurse job opportunities at Trusted Nurse Staffing on Pronto. Not only can you search by locations that appeal to you, but you can also easily see the setting, specialty area, hourly rates, and shifts available. Join us in embracing diversity and adventure in your travel nursing journey!  


travel nursing cultural competence


#4: Educate Yourself

Professional development is essential in enhancing cultural competency. Just like mastering a new nursing skill or staying up to date as nursing practices change, cultural competency requires ongoing education. 

Imagine you’re learning a new clinical procedure. You wouldn’t hesitate to seek out training resources and attend workshops to enhance your proficiency. Similarly, treating cultural competence as a skill set involves actively seeking out continuing education opportunities.

CEU providers like Nurse.com offer courses covering topics such as pain management across different cultures and LGBTQ+ best practices in healthcare. By investing in ongoing education, nurses can stay up to date on best practices and effectively meet the diverse needs of patients.  


#5: Treat Every New Assignment Like a Learning Experience

Just as you take a travel assignment to try out a new specialty area or learn new skills, approach each new travel nursing assignment as an opportunity to expand your cultural competence.

Every new place you visit will offer unique insights and experiences, allowing you to grow professionally and personally. 

At Trusted Nursing Staffing, we work closely with our recruited nurses, sending assignment offers that match their qualifications and preferences. By partnering with us, you can embark on fulfilling travel nursing experiences while enhancing your cultural competence. 


cultural competence in travel nursing


#6: Seek Cultural Guidance

Don’t hesitate to engage patients in conversations about their cultural needs and preferences. Asking them directly can enhance trust and understanding.

Additionally, seek out culturally competent mentors. As a travel nurse, you have the unique opportunity to build a diverse network of professionals all around the county. Rely on this network for guidance when encountering patients from different cultures. 


#7: Identify Cultural Nuances

Make it a goal to uncover cultural nuances with each new patient. You can use surveys or engage directly with patients to understand their values, preferences, dietary needs, and more. Taking the time to recognize and respect these nuances enables you to provide more personalized and effective care. 

You can consider discussing the following with patients to uncover cultural nuances:

  • Communication style preferences
  • Involvement of family members or other individuals in their care
  • Dietary preferences or restrictions
  • Preferred pronouns or titles
  • Views on pain management and treatment
  • Religious or spiritual considerations 


#8: Track Your Progress

Don’t underestimate the value of seeking feedback from your patients throughout their care journey. Encourage open communication and be receptive to feedback. 

Consider keeping a journal or notes to track your progress in understanding and addressing cultural nuances. Reflecting on your experiences and actively seeking ways to improve your cultural competence will improve patient-centered care. 


cultural competence travel nursing


The Benefits of Cultural Competency in Travel Nursing

Recognizing and prioritizing cultural competency in travel nursing brings many advantages:

  • Reducing miscommunication errors: Cultural competency helps minimize misunderstandings. For example, patients may struggle to understand medical procedures due to a language barrier.
  • Improving treatment outcomes: By understanding and respecting cultural differences, travel nurses can tailor care to align with patients’ beliefs, preferences, and values. This leads to better treatment adherence and outcomes. 
  • Improving nurse-patient relationship: Culturally competent care fosters trust and rapport between patients. Patients will feel understood, respected, and valued.
  • Enhancing patient satisfaction: When patients feel that their needs are acknowledged and addressed, they are more likely to feel satisfied with their care.
  • Reducing healthcare disparities: Cultural competency helps address disparities in healthcare access and outcomes. When individuals feel supported by their healthcare providers, they become more trusting of the entire medical system. 


cultural competence in travel nursing


Let Trusted Nurse Staffing Help You Explore the Diverse World of Travel Nursing

Working as a travel nurse provides exciting opportunities to interact with individuals from diverse backgrounds and learn from their cultures. 

At Trusted Nursing Staffing, we recognize the significance of cultural competence in delivering exceptional care. We are committed to placing nurses in diverse locations across the United States — providing valuable opportunities for cultural growth. 

Using the interactive state map on Pronto, we provide information on the licensing requirements for each state as well as open positions by state, making it easy to find exciting opportunities. Search for 

Unlike other agencies, we prioritize personal connection and responsiveness. We ensure every nurse receives the support needed for a fulfilling travel nurse assignment. We also conveniently manage compliance documents on our portal, making it one less thing for you to worry about. 

Join us in finding an exciting new travel assignment!