My Cultural Self-Assessment Analysis
Diana L. Garza
The University of Texas Rio Grande Valley
What race that defines me? To be completely honest with myself and others at this moment I want to share that up until now I grew up believing I was a “Latina” or “Hispanic”. How does this change my beliefs? It does not impact my feelings or beliefs due to the strength of culture is. Culture is how we grew up and what was engraved in our mind, body, and soul by our race, religion, ethnicity, marital status, gender, language, education, occupation, cultural domains, and cultural taboos and myths.
Keywords: Culture, Cultural domains
My Cultural Self-Assessment Analysis
My name is Diana Lydia Garza. My name was a decision that involved my whole family as they carefully took culture into consideration. My mother chose my first name naming me after her best friend growing up who passed away tragically. My father chose my middle name naming me after the doctor that delivered me. My birth to my parents was something that they explain was a beautiful thing for them so both sides of my family had their input in my name. To me my name is something special and that I am very proud of. I remember as far back as being in kindergarten learning to write out my name was a huge accomplishment and feeling of joy. Till today my name is and will always be a great part of me. It means the union of my father and mother to give me what everyone refers to me as. I am very proud and it is a daily reminder of why I am named how I am as people and my patients call out my name. I kindly smile when I hear it since I know inside the meaning my name actually holds for me.
To many people, gender can be something that can be considered shameful or a feeling of either inferiority or superiority. To me, gender does not mean anything. Growing up I saw my family struggle financially and my father in the mindset of a strong cultural belief where women were to stay at home and care for the children. My father was the only provider since strong Mexican culture and belief is that the man must provide for the family and the woman must cater to the man. I see this now and I see the shift in beliefs and how far women have gone by changing mind sets without needing a man to survive. In my opinion, a man should be seen as a companion and both individuals in a relationship must bring something to the table an effort to improve the relationship and the lives of all family members involved. I think that by my experience growing up, it has made me not just mentally strong but also physically. I see myself as a warrior going out every day with my usual routine working hard caring for others as I set an example for my children that we have what we work hard for and nothing in life is impossible if we believe hard enough and not give up. We do not need to depend on others for our success but non-the less we choose whom we want in our lives and if those are not somebody whom contributes or brings happiness, we have choices and we make our future by our beliefs and those remnants we choose to take with us from our experiences and memories. I respect my mother and love her dearly but I believe women are strong and gender is not something that defines us. Gender is what we make of it and our culture is such a huge melting pot we have the opportunity to choose what we decide to take with us and what we will leave behind and change for our generations to come.
I am very blessed to say that I am fortunate to be a part of such a wonderful country where we have freedom of choice and speech to a certain extent. I’ve to thank my parents who are first-generation immigrants from Mexico into the United States of America. My parents moved from Mexico to California where I was born. In California, my father worked in the fields and with the sweat from his forehead he was able to make a life for us here. I am blessed to say I am a second generation immigrant with the privilege of being born an American citizen and not feeling the initial feeling of persecution or being alienated by others upon entering this diverse and different country. I am very proud to also share that my primary language is Spanish. I learned English just about when I learned to write my name and even though I was different to many in a school filled with little girls with blonde ponylotails I am happy for how far I’ve come with the push of my parents who began working in a field and had no education or knowledge of how to communicate in a different country. Over the years my father learned to speak English after living in the US for many years but even then we never forget our roots and where we came from by reminding ourselves daily of our primary language.
To many, especially in the Mexican American culture, marriage is for life since what God united must not be separated. I am unfortunate to say that I did not have that advantage. I’ve been faced with many challenges in life with men being one of them. I believe it could be related to being a nurse and my strong sense of commitment to serve others and putting them before myself and family. I do not regret my choices one bit since I am a very strong believer that we live by our daily choice and it causes no difference to regret but instead to repent. I am sad to say that I am recently divorced and now a single mother of two small children who look up to me daily as their role model to strive and engrave the culture that was once engraved into me. As a single mother of two, I am defying all odds in my culture; since not only am I divorced but thanks to God I am successful and can carry the load of being head of household without a man to provide for me or my children. I know and strongly feel I’ve made both my parents proud even through my failures. In the eyes of my family, I am not only a nurse, but also a woman with a healing touch that makes a difference for all those I call my patients.
Like I mentioned before, I’ve had several failures in life. One of my greatest failures that I now see as a way of God communicating with me, is the path that was ahead of me to take was my decisions involving education. I still remember as if it were yesterday when I turned fifteen years old and I had my first boyfriend. My mother had always instilled in me what was culturally correct in the eyes of my family which was to bring my boyfriend home for approval of the family. I did as I thought was culturally right to make my family proud. As time passed, I thought what was then love led me to take the decision of agreeing to take our relationship to the next level and agreeing to marriage at the age of sixteen. I did not have a sweet sixteen as most typical of other cultures, but instead I had a wedding. I dropped out of high school to become a housewife and to then realize the error I had made. I then decided to return to school and end my marriage due to personal reasons. Those actions in my life made me realize that culture plays a very strong influence in us and that we choose our culture and what we decide to take from our relatives and what we decide to make of our own. I am sure that at that point my parents were not too proud of where I was at but I know now that they look at me highly for defying all the odds and going against the current to prove everyone wrong. This I saw with the most utmost humility know and what brought me to where I now stand. Now I am very proud to say that I have an associates’ degree in nursing and I’m currently working on my bachelor’s degree after initially being labeled as a high school dropout.
I am very happy to share that I’ve had a change in occupation recently which I feel is going well to my advantage. I was previously the director of nursing at Brownsville nursing and rehabilitation which is a nursing home that not only specialized in therapy but also in long-term care of a wide variety of patient’s with diverse needs. I am happy to say that after four great years of experience in nursing management I’ve changed scenery to a faster-paced branch of nursing in the home health field. I am very excited to be able to be out in the field providing education and skills to my patients. As a home health nurse, I am faced with a variety of diverse patients with different cultures and beliefs. It is my responsibility as a nurse to not only provide them with a service but to look at them in a holistic way being culturally competent; by looking at all the contributing factors that may impact their care. For example, by living in the valley we are faced with many different races that we must take into consideration when providing care. One thing that I’ve been exposed to is how strong culture and race plays in a role in peoples diet. Unfortunately coming from a Mexican American background I am able to identify what the diet consists of for my patient’s that match this criterion. I am always sure to provide ample education to all Mexican American patients on healthy life style choices and their diet to avoid risks and unnecessary damage. I try to take into consideration our heritage and what our customs are for our diet choices by educating them on saturated and unsaturated fats, the difference between them, and the risks with the amount consumed. Also, I try to make all teaching patient-centered on their education level, diagnosis, beliefs, and needs. Many patients have such strong influential beliefs that even after repeated education on most wound healing for a diabetic ulcer they will remove their dressing to apply Vicks Vapor Rub to the ulcer since grandma says, “It heals everything”, and all we can do is respect their right to refuse.
In my own opinion, religion can be as diverse as culture and can also be seen as a myth. People hold this belief as strong as the culture that was instilled in them at birth. To me, religion means the respect and acknowledgment of a higher being that created us. I do believe there is a higher force that enlightens our daily path and influences the decisions that we take. I am a strong believer that after every accomplishment I’ve had, I owe to my mother being on her knees praying for me to find my happy place and where I belong. I feel that every failure has been a test for me to realize how strong I am mentally, physically, and emotionally. I see my body as a temple and God’s vessel to provide to the sick and those that need my healing touch. Every day that I wake up I leave my feelings of exhaustion, sadness, stress, and any negative thought on my pillow as I put on my scrubs and my stethoscope around my neck to start the day with a smile. This is what I teach to my children and I hope that it can be a part of their culture to become. We are strong. We are a structure for others who are sick to lean on. We cannot have any negative thoughts or personal beliefs blur our judgment but instead, we must leave everything every night on our pillow and start fresh with a clear mind where we have no opinions but only facts and assessment data. I want to thank God for enlightening my path and listening to my mother’s words daily.
To me, cultural domains are simple. Every year it is a ritual for my whole family to unite in my grandmother’s house where all my aunts, uncles, cousins, nieces, and my parents go every holiday. We talk about our year and our accomplishments and goals for the coming year. Every family member brings a dish. It is a custom for us to have a feast every holiday filled with not so healthy diet choices identified by my nursing background but none-the-less it is a part of my culture that I decide to do occasionally on holidays. All of the women in my family unite days before major holidays to make batches of tamales, menudo, and all kinds of Mexican American delicacies to celebrate the holidays. In our family, the biggest celebration is not just any major recognized holiday but it is my grandmother’s birthday since she was a great part in our culture now and the choices and path all our family members have taken. I remember growing up with grandma and her being seen as a figure of respect and discipline while at the same time love.
I think that another huge role in the culture that defines patient care, treatment, and compliance with treatment is taboos and myths. As I had mentioned before, beliefs play an instrumental role in the patient’s reaction to treatment and involvement in their plan of care. This will either make it successful or a total failure if we as health care professionals do not take into consideration these instrumental key roles. In my experience, I’ve learned to be a patient advocate to an extent if it doesn’t interfere with patient care or their prognosis. I’ve been exposed to patients with very strong cultural beliefs throughout my experience, and most of the time all we can do is negotiate and educate. For example, the non-compliant patient who is labeled everywhere as not following medial direction or doctors order and removes wound dressing daily making it high risk for complications related to multiple comorbidities. What do we do in that case? We must take into consideration the patient’s beliefs and look at it as a holistic approach by respecting the fact that she wants to apply Vick’s Vapor Rub to her extremity so her wound heals. She was taught by her grandma that Vick’s will heal it all, so as an advocate I called her doctor and explained the situation. The patient was in agreement to leave dressing intact if allowed to apply Vick’s to lower extremity without coming in contact with wound prior to wound care is performed under the supervision of the nurse. The patient was content, and the doctor was happy to know the patient was being compliant and showed progress after refraining from removing the dressing. Many times, by respecting patient taboos and myths and educating from what you are exposed to there is a higher possibility of better patient outcome and compliance with treatment plan. In this scenario, I saw first hand how analyzing the situation and taking into consideration patient beliefs makes a difference that impacts patient care in a great and positive way. In summary, the patients wound healed due to the high involvement of doctor supervisions and education provided with involving the patient’s believes and by being culturally competent in a congruent fashion. The patient was also very happy with her outcome and with the doctor’s decision to allow application of Vick’s Vapor Rub which like her grandma said, “it heals it all”.
In summary, I again want to share that culture is what was instilled in us at birth by our family, friends, and our loved ones that surround us, but it is our decision what we decide to take or modify along the way to meet our needs and those of our patients. It is always our choice but once again when we enter the field and clock into our shift we must forget all we believe in and make ouf patients our focus and our priority and their culture and beliefs become our priority by taking into consideration all above mentioned to improve care and leaving our opinions, feelings, and beliefs on our pillow.