Great topic. I worked in a facility that had a charity heart surgery program for children from all over the world.
Yes it is essential to understand some of the cultural differences. People from Russia do not think smiling is appropriate when discussing the child's care. Smiling while talking about a serious issue means you're an idiot. (This from a Russian born nurse/interpreter.)
We had one Polish mother who wanted her child bundled up, and she felt like we were not keeping him warm enough. She settled for moistening non-sterile 4x4's that we kept at the bedside, with warm water, and laying them on the child. She kept going to the sink to refresh them so they would stay warm. We compromised by setting up the radiant warmer over him.
How do I address it? Well, I worked nights, so forget the interpreters or asking about them. I would demonstarte any procedures I was going to perform, and we all knew a few basic words in the most common languages, like Drink, pee, pain, cough, take a deep breath. I found that cocoa cola and mama are universal!
Some of the parents would have an English/whatever language dictionary, they would look up words in their question and show it to me in the book. I would look up my answers and show it to them. We drew pictures. Honestly, it was never much of a problem. They did usually have a sponsor who housed them while here, and usually it was a person of their native origin, so they were usually very helpful.
We have had men who wished to keep their turbans on during surgery, and this was accomodated with the OR hats, and sterile towels wrapped and taped around it.
Once many years ago, we had some gypsies who tied a nadana around the side rail and told us they put a curse on it, so if anyone took it off, they would be cursed for life. Do you believe one nurse just had to do it? I wouldn't touch that thing, and frankly, those people scared the heck out of me!!!
I think it is something that you think more about with maturity, meaning, as you gain confidence in your own nursing abilities, your comfort level increases in asking those textbook questions. Open-ended questions work the best, like tell me how you learned to speak Spanish? Where do they get their prescriptions filled? Are the instructions written in their native language, can they read English? Where do they find strength when things are not going well? What kind of foods do you like to eat?
Lenninger wrote the Transcultural Nursing text didn't she? That is a good book, but if you can get your hands on Estes, there is a great chapter on culture and spirituality in there, as well as how to do a cultural assessment.