According to Hicks (2012), the United States has been called the melting pot of the world, and for good reason. People of many cultures and ethnicities have immigrated to America seeking a better life, and with them they bring their culture. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) website states that the Hispanic population is one of largest minority ethnicities in the United States is the Hispanic population. The Hispanic culture is very different from American culture. Their belief in the healthcare system in this country is as different as the Hispanic food is to the American food. The way they see and care for their family is as different as the English and the Spanish language are to one another. American medicine is so much of a mystery to the Hispanic culture that it will take many years for them to believe and understand it. In an episode of “The Neighborhood” we met Gil. Gil Martin is a 52 year old Hispanic male who is married to Helen. Gil and Helen have two children together. Gil has a child from a previous marriage. Helen also has a child from a previous relationship, whom Gil has raised since the child was 3 years old.
Gil is a hardworking man with a decent paying job that does not have all the benefits that Gil needs at this time in his life. Gil Martin also has some health problems including chronic back pain and hyperlipidemia. Gil’s father recently passed away and this has left his mother to tend to herself. This has been very had for Gil’s mother and he has been spending a lot more time at her house due to this life changing event in her life. This has caused stress and a problem in Gil’s marriage because his wife does not seem to understand why he has to be at his mother’s house all the time. Gil is also trying to help his oldest son from his previous marriage thru financial difficulties. Gil has asked his son and his grandson to move into his home until he gets back on his financially stable. Gil’s wife, Helen, cannot understand why Gil has to do so much for his family and is very angry at all of this.
The Hispanic population has grown tremendously over the past 15 years. In the 2000, those that described themselves as Hispanic totaled 35.3 million, which was 3 million more than the Census Bureau had estimated. This number put Hispanics roughly equal with African Americans, a shift that had political and cultural implications at the beginning of the millennium (Mellander 2001). The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2014) website states that, as of July 1, 2013, it is estimated that the Hispanic population now makes up 17% of the U.S. population, or roughly 54 millillion people. This tells us that the Hispanic population keeps growing. With this growth also comes the problem of understanding how this culture believes, acts and responds to nurses, doctors, medicines and healthcare provided in the United States.
In “The Neighborhood” case with Gil Martin, we see how his belief in taking care of his mother and son, and being there for them as much as possible, is affecting his marriage. For those born in the United States, it may be hard to understand that Hispanics are very family oriented people and their mother and father come before anything most of the time. In the hospital, it may be difficult for healthcare personnel to understand that, when a Hispanic patient is critically ill, multitudes of family members may show up at one time trying to find out how their loved one is doing. The family might travel from far away just to be close to their family member during this hard time. This is something that not all cultures can understand.
A common bias towards those who have immigrated to America, held by many of those born in the United States, is “They came to our country; they must believe what we say and must accept what we do.” I have held this belief in the past. Healthcare providers must become culturally competent and open to learning about the Hispanic culture’s beliefs. Jones (2008) stated that in 2003, a study of different racial groups in Washington D.C. revealed that 9% of Hispanics used the emergency department as their primary source of medical care, compared to 1% of Caucasians.
Hispanics also reported that, for 15%, care from a primary care physician was nonexistent. Only 2% of caucasians reported the same. Jones (2008) advised that because of the healthcare disparity, use the emergency department for primary care, and barriers to this care that the Hispanic population reported, culturally competent care in the emergency department is an area that is need of further research. I can speak from personal experience when I say that many recently immigrated Hispanics do not have knowledge of health care delivery in this country and how the process works in places such as an emergency care center. It is important not to stereotype Hispanics because this could affect how we as nurses care for these patients. It could affect our assessments and our discharge explanations. There is also evidence that a patient’s ethnicity and cultural beliefs can influence the clinical decisions that are made by their healthcare providers (Escarce, 2006).