Self-Reported Cultural Competence of Public Health Nurses in a Southeastern U.S. Public Health Department


  • Sharon Starr,

    1. Ph.D., R.N., is Dean, David Belk Cannon Health Education Institute, Gaston College, Dallas, North Carolina.
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  • Debra C. Wallace

    1. Ph.D., R.N., is Director of Research and Center for the Health of Vulnerable Populations, Daphine Doster Mastroianni Distinguished Professor, School of Nursing, The University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Greensboro, North Carolina
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Sharon Starr, David Belk Cannon Health Education Institute, Gaston College, 201 Hwy 321 South, Dallas, NC 28033. E-mail:


ABSTRACT Objective: Delivery of culturally competent public health nursing that can address health disparities is dependent on competent practice by nurses. Examining public health nurses' (PHNs') cultural competence provides a basis for planning and developing interventions to ensure competent care. Examine the cultural competence of PHNs.

Design: Descriptive, exploratory study examining the measured cultural competence of PHNs and their perceptions of delivery of culturally competent care.

Sample: A convenience sample of 31 PHNs participated.

Measurements: Participants completed the Cultural Competence Assessment tool and documented personal experiences and perceptions of culturally competent health care through open-ended questions.

Results: Most participants reported a moderate level of cultural competence. Cultural awareness and sensitivity scores were higher than scores for culturally competent behaviors. Participation in specific types of cultural competence training was significantly related to higher scores on cultural competence. Participants documented culturally competent care for a diverse clientele and requested additional diversity educational opportunities and interpreter services.

Conclusions: The nurses had culturally competent knowledge and attitudes but were unable to fully and consistently enact these in practice. The need for appropriate cultural competence education and interpreter services addressing health disparities, as mandated in the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services in Health Care standards, is emphasized.