Culturally insensitive patients - page 3

A little background: I am Chinese American. I live in a university town in the Midwest that is fairly multicultural, but that is also surrounded by farming communities that are generally 100% white and very insulated. I work... Read More

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    The demographics of the country is changing. Those deeply insulated rural older folks will be the last of their kind. In 30 years, you might not get those questions much at all. What is once exotic becomes the everyday reality.
    nrsang97 likes this.

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    I get comments from some patient's, but mainly coworkers because I wear a scrub skirt, instead of pants due to religious convictions. Even during a hospital orientation I was ousted. I particular got questioned in front everyone else how I would care for openly gay patient. As if I would treat them any different from anyone else, just because I am a Christian and practice my faith by wearing a skirt.

    It is not just demeaning, but it is hypocritical for me being harrassed, when I am sitting through a cultural lecture on how to respect other cultures, when I am not treated with respect.

    I am just tired of having to explain why I wear a skirt. I do my job, and follow the rules. I don't promote beliefs or religion at work.
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    I am a natural blonde and I have has so many questions if my hair is natural or dyed. I respond with people pay for my hair color.

    I also get questioned by my last name. Not so much anymore since it has been removed from our badges. People assumed I was Polish (not from Poland, just by my last name I am of Polish descent). My married name is Polish. I am in fact not Polish to my knowledge. I just said nope not Polish just married a Polish guy.

    I also get questioned about my age. I have had patient's in complete disbelief I was their nurse. I had them actually ask me my age. I would not tell them until they told me how old they thought I was. It was interesting to hear their answers as to how young they thought I was.

    OP if the patients keep it up just change the subject, or reiterate that you were born in America.
    1feistymama and NurseKatie08 like this.
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    I don't live in such a rural area but I have also experienced similar 'awkward comments' such as: "what's your REAL name?" (assuming that I must have a Japanese-sounding name) and similar situations as yours.

    It is very awkward, especially because technically I was born in Japan, speak the language, and have been and lived in Japan before. But I have spent most of my life in the US and consider myself American (as well as Japanese) and I completely agree with you that it can sometimes be frustrating that so many people assume that we are foreigners when in fact we are just as American as anybody else.

    I do feel that sometimes it is out of genuine curiosity but sometimes it can be pure ignorance, and people need to understand that just because you look 'different' that you are a foreigner. Maybe not in all cases, but in a lot of cases people I agree with you that people are being culturally insensitive. At the same time it is something that we probably all do so the best we can do is try to explain our background and try to get them to understand that we are just as American as they are
    Kandy83 and tippytootagon like this.
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    I try to turn the conversation around: my family was from _____, what about you? What is your heritage?
    People are curious but they love to talk about themselves as well.
    Questions about language? Gosh, I've always wished a spoke a second language. How about you?

    And I find accents fascinating especially when folks have blended 2 or more.

    Wait until you are in your fifties and everyone assumes you are in your sixties, a grandparent and nearing retirement.
    HouTx, RNperdiem, and tippytootagon like this.
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    I have experienced a similar situation, although it wasn't a patient asking the question...it was another nurse! I was a travel nurse working in Southern California. I am white (with quite pale skin, due to those long Canadian winters) with blonde hair and brown eyes.
    Upon learning I was from Canada she exclaimed, "but you don't LOOK Canadian !"

    Say wha-at?

    I was literally too surprised (and at the moment too busy) to ask her what did she mean.
    So I never did find out what she thought Canadians "looked like" but I have often wondered. Lol

    To the OP- that sounds very frustrating! And while I'm sure your patients are just being curious, there does
    come a point when good manners (on their part) dictates they need to stop being so
    clueless & nosy!!
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    It is so interesting that in this day and age where multiple American families are (and have been) adopting Asian children for years that this would even be an issue! Some people have no filter.
    "Your English is so good" "Why thank you, not bad for being raised in the midwest!!"
    "What's China like" "Thankfully, my parents adopted me when I was a young child and I don't remember anything about it"
    or "Being born and raised in America, I don't know."
    People with no filter just want to find out something about what they perceive to be "exotic". I am sure that you are the subject of Bingo conversations "that Asian nurse is so cool" stuff by little old ladies in the general area you are. Not to worry, all you can do is laugh it off, shake your head, and go on. Lots of patients just like to personalize things more than some would like ie: "Are you married? Why not? Got kids? What are they up to......" Nervous energy and people babble....
    If there's derogatory undertones, that is a different subject....
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    on a slightly comical note, we had a dementia riddled little black lady who called 911 from her room because she was "being held hostage in some hospital in china!!!!"

    lol it just so happens that all nurses caring for her the past few days were FILLIPINO-american.

    it made for a few giggles in the breakroom
    1feistymama and HouTx like this.
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    i will also admit that i LOVEEEE accents. i think they sound so cool. all 4 of my grandparents are immigrants and i always think its pretty impressive when someone is fluent in two languages.

    so yes, i guess im blunt enough to usually ask, but i often follow up with "it sounds so pretty", and i mean it :-)
    1feistymama and SoldierNurse22 like this.
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    I also feel that the OP's situation reflects curiosity, not discrimination.

    I have a dear friend who is a PNP, but absolutely passionate about learning about the effect of different cultures on family dynamics. While attending a conference in LA, we went to a Japanese restaurant and I was initially mortified when my friend noticed an ancient-looking woman sitting behind the cash register and started quizzing the (also Japanese) waiter about how elderly people are treated in Japanese society.

    Well, it turned out that he was the old woman's grandson and was definitely not offended. He not only told us about his grandmother's place in the family (they review operations and receipts with her each day) but then introduced us to her! She did not speak English, but (via family interpreters) we had a lovely chat. She also wanted to know about our lives and what we did. We had a great time.
    SoldierNurse22 likes this.


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