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Language and Cultural Barriers at Nursing Workplace Research Paper

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Updated: Nov 12th, 2020

Nowadays, nurses face millions of ethical dilemmas on a regular basis. In addition to the fact that they have to find effective and appropriate solutions to these dilemmas, they should be ready to demonstrate their ethical behavior, understand the nature of ethics in such field as nursing, and realize that every situation is a combination of certain ethical rules, social norms, and cultural issues.

The goal of any successful nurse is the provision of ethical nursing care alongside with the possibility to make rational decisions and follow the core concepts of nursing that are also known as bioethical principles. An ethical dilemma is a situation when several choices are available to nurses, and none of them can be defined as an ethically acceptable solution. With the intention of overcoming language and cultural barriers in the workplace, there is a threat to face such an ethical dilemma as the lack of involvement and the impossibility to distribute nursing roles properly. The solution to this dilemma has to touch upon the respect of autonomy and justice as two bioethical principles in terms of which moralities, ethical values, and personal attitudes can be discussed.

Ethical Dilemma in Nursing

Any ethical dilemma has a certain impact on nursing and the work of every nurse and other medical workers who can be involved in the field of nursing. On the one hand, a dilemma is usually a challenge for nurses because they have to think hard, use their background knowledge, and investigate different cases in order to make a correct decision. On the other hand, the presence of a dilemma is a unique chance for nurses to demonstrate their skills and exchange new knowledge.

The dilemma that is caused by the necessity to overcome language and cultural barriers in a working place is usually characterized by the lack of adequate noticing, on-time reporting, and the development of language proficiency that influence patient safety and care quality (van Rosse, Bruijne, Surrmond, Essink-Bot, & Wagner, 2015). Many migrants come to hospitals in order to ask for professional help or find a good job (Kalengayi, Hurtig, Nordstrand, Ahlm, & Ahlberg, 2015).

Some of them are able to represent their needs and thoughts. However, in some cases, potential medical workers may have deep knowledge in nursing. Still, they do not know how to cope with the existing language barriers and cultural differences. The necessity to learn new cultures and traditions, practice speaking a new language, and cooperate with new people may challenge nurses, and they have to keep in mind a number of moral issues.

Moral Issues in the Situation

Cultural diversity in the workplace is a frequent situation the solution to, which depends on a number of personal and organizational issues. In the situation under analysis, the nursing staff has to overcome cultural and language barriers and provide patients with high-quality care. Nurses have to understand that any moral issue raised in such a situation is a problem that has to be solved. In the workplace, nurses who suffer from language or cultural barriers may face such problems as discrimination, negligence, misunderstanding, and misjudgment and deal with such issues as protecting human rights, support of autonomy, and effective decision-making (Smebye, Kirkevold, & Engedal, 2016).

Even when one moral issue is raised in the workplace, only moral distress can be developed. A nurse has no idea on how to solve problems and cannot understand what is right or wrong. Besides, a number of institutional constraints promote confusion (A.F. Almutairi, 2015). Nurses should be ready for them.

The peculiar feature of the work of nurses is the necessity to cooperate with different people who may have different levels of knowledge, moods, and expectations. In the workplace, nurses have to stay calm and support other people to follow the same rules. When nurses have to learn a new language or a culture, more work has to be done in a short period of time. Some nurses are ready for such responsibilities, and some nurses have a dread of new tasks.

Bioethical Principles and the Ethical Dilemma

The presence of cultural diversity and its recognition as an ethical dilemma should not challenge nurses in their workplace in case they know what to do. It is suggested to address the existing bioethical rules that become an inherent part of nursing (Dehghani, Mosalanejad, & Dehghan-Nayeri, 2015).

For example, the principle that supports the idea of respect for people’s autonomy and the principle of justice may serve as good guidelines for nurses who face certain language or cultural barriers, as well as for nurses who have already experienced similar problems and just search for new alternative solutions to their other workplace problems. Respect for autonomy is the principle according to which people have to make informed and, what is more important, voluntary decisions.

When people from foreign countries have to cooperate with native citizens, they have to deal with possible sensitivity in implementing new ethnocultural norms and communities (Côté, 2013). Respect for autonomy is a supporting tool for nurses who still have language or cultural barriers. When a person is autonomous, there is a high possibility of discovering new talents.

Another important principle is justice. Justice in health care, as well as in nursing, is a form of fairness that has to be available to every person. There is no reason for people to be divided into cultural groups in the workplace or use language knowledge to humiliate or punish a person. Professionalism and justice help people develop new approaches in nursing and caring for people (Genuis & Lipp, 2013).

When people aim at being just in the workplace, they do not spend their time on such issues as jealousy or unfair competition. They try to unite their powers and knowledge and achieve common goals, which including care improvement, knowledge exchange, and communication development. Effective communication is a key process for nurses who provide patients with safe and high-quality care (K.M. Almutairi, 2015). The consideration of the offered principles helps to understand what working aspects should be used to avoid cultural or language barriers in the workplace.

Morality Importance

Taking into consideration group and social moralities, which are usually based on the principles of respect, dignity, and justice, I believe that my personal morality should not differ from the standards followed by my colleagues, comrades, and teachers. Respect in nursing is not only a requirement. It is a gift that may not be received by anyone. It is a result of hard work and the ability to demonstrate good knowledge in the chosen field, as well as to cooperate with people at different levels.

As soon as a person starts respecting other people, there is a chance to gain respect from others. Besides, I cannot neglect the idea of social justice in the workplace. This nursing value helps many organizations deal with existing cultural diversity and the necessity to develop international relations with nurses, doctors, and patients. The workplace is the place where no language barriers or cultural challenges should deprive nurses of a chance to work properly and offer appropriate health care.

Values and Morality

I realize that the society I am currently living in is not perfect. There are always some cases of discrimination or injustice. People want to prove their positions, use their unique knowledge, and demonstrate their strengths by means of discovering other people’s weaknesses. Though it is one of the methods to achieve success and promotion in the workplace, it should not be the goal for nurses. Nursing is the field where care, support, and understanding play an important role.

The quality of care depends directly on the level of professionalism demonstrated by nurses (K.M. Almutairi, 2015). I want to believe that the relationship between the nursing values and the morality raised in the situation when nurses have to overcome their language and cultural barriers has to be strong and definite to provide people with a way to share their knowledge and strive for improvements instead of breeding envy or fear.


In general, millions of nurses face an ethical dilemma on how to overcome language and cultural barriers in the workplace today. They cannot recognize where the right or wrong sides are. They try to follow some general rules and meet the expectations of the society they have to live in without even noticing what mistakes they make. Improvement of nursing is possible in case of people, regardless of their cultural and historical roots and spoken languages, are able to respect each other and promote justice as the tool to be used in the workplace.


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Almutairi, K.M. (2015). Culture and language differences as a barrier to the provision of quality care by the health workforce in Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia Medical Journal, 36(4), 425-431.

Côté, D. (2013). Intercultural communication in health care: Challenges and solutions in work rehabilitation practices and training: a comprehensive review. Disability and Rehabilitation, 35(2), 153-163.

Dehghani, A., Mosalanejad, L., & Dehghan-Nayeri, N. (2015). Factors affecting professional ethics in nursing practice in Iran: A qualitative study. BMC Medical Ethics, 16(61). Web.

Genius, S. J., & Lipp, C. (2013). Ethical diversity and the role of conscience in clinical medicine. International Journal of Family Medicine, 2013. Web.

Kalengayi, F. K. N., Hurtig, A. K., Nordstrand, A., Ahlm, C., & Ahlberg, B. M. (2015). ‘It is a dilemma’: Perspectives of nurse practitioners on health screening of newly arrived migrants. Global Health Action, 8(1). Web.

Smee, K. L., Kirkevold, M., & Engedal, K. (2016). Ethical dilemmas concerning autonomy when persons with dementia wish to live at home: A qualitative, hermeneutic study. BMC Health Services Research, 16(21). Web.

van Rosse, F., de Bruijne, M., Suurmond, J., Essink-Bot, M. L., & Wagner, C. (2015). Language barriers and patient safety risks in hospital care: A mixed-methods study. International Journal of Nursing Studies, 54, 45-53.

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