Community-Based Cultural Connections: A Cornerstone of Culturally Congruent Care in Nursing Education

Community-Based Cultural Connections: A Cornerstone of Culturally Congruent Care in Nursing Education

Author: Rick García, PhD, RN, CCM, FAAOHN, FAADN, Chief Executive Officer at the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN), and the OADN Foundation

Published August 2023


In the ever-evolving field of nursing, cultural competence has emerged as a vital component of education. Recognizing the significance of fostering cultural connections, nursing organizations like the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Organization for Associate Degree Nursing (OADN) emphasize the importance of community-based work to develop cultural knowledge. By serving members of the community, nursing students gain a deeper understanding of diverse populations and learn to deliver healthcare that meets people where they are at, contributing to their growth as global citizens.

Community-Based Cultural Connections

Nursing is a profession that demands sensitivity, empathy, and a deep understanding of diverse cultural backgrounds. Integrating cultural connections into nursing education through community-based work offers a unique opportunity for students to develop cultural knowledge that is rooted in real-life experiences. By engaging directly with members of the community, nursing students gain insight into their beliefs, values, and unique healthcare needs.

International Connections: Embracing Global Perspectives Locally

While international experiences are valuable, it is equally important to recognize the richness and diversity within our local communities. Many communities have residents from various cultural backgrounds, allowing nursing students to encounter different perspectives without traveling abroad. Collaborating with local community organizations, cultural centers, or immigrant support groups provides invaluable opportunities for students to engage with individuals from diverse backgrounds and build cultural connections.

By participating in community-based initiatives, nursing students can learn about the customs, beliefs, and traditions of different cultures. They gain insight into the unique healthcare challenges faced by these communities and how cultural factors impact health outcomes. This firsthand experience enables nursing students to deliver more culturally sensitive care that respects the values and preferences of the individuals they serve.

Tribal Colleges: Honoring Indigenous Traditions and Health Practices

Tribal colleges play a crucial role in preserving and promoting indigenous traditions while addressing the healthcare needs of Native American communities. Collaborating with tribal colleges allows nursing students to engage with indigenous populations and gain a deeper understanding of their cultural perspectives and traditional healing practices. By immersing themselves in the rich cultural heritage of Native American communities, nursing students develop cultural competence that can profoundly impact their future practice.

Partnerships with tribal colleges enable nursing students to learn about the historical trauma experienced by Native American communities and the importance of providing culturally sensitive and congruent care. This knowledge empowers nursing graduates to work collaboratively with tribal communities to address healthcare disparities and implement strategies that honor indigenous traditions while promoting better health outcomes.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities: Celebrating Diversity and Addressing Disparities

Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have long been champions of educational equity and excellence for African American students. Collaborating with HBCUs allows nursing students to celebrate diversity and gain a deeper understanding of the unique healthcare challenges faced by African American communities. By engaging with HBCUs, nursing education can address healthcare disparities and ensure culturally responsive care for all populations.

Through community-based work with HBCUs, nursing students can explore the social determinants of health affecting African American communities, such as systemic racism, socioeconomic factors, and health inequities. This understanding empowers nursing graduates to advocate for policy changes, engage in community-based health initiatives, and contribute to the improvement of overall health outcomes within these communities.

The Impact of Community Engagement

Community engagement serves as a catalyst for change in nursing education. By actively participating in community-based work, nursing students gain practical experience working with diverse populations, vulnerable groups, and underserved communities. This involvement enhances their cultural competence, fosters their sense of social responsibility, and nurtures their ability to deliver healthcare that meets people where they are at.

Through community-based work, nursing students can appreciate the diverse needs of different populations and develop the necessary skills to address them effectively. Engaging with communities allows nursing students to learn from individuals’ lived experiences, respect their cultural beliefs, and tailor their care accordingly. This approach ensures that nursing graduates can deliver equitable, person-centered care to diverse members of communities as they navigate the global healthcare landscape.

Community Colleges: Cultivating Cultural Knowledge for Culturally Congruent Care

Community colleges serve as a cornerstone of nursing education, providing accessible pathways to diverse students. These institutions are uniquely positioned to assist students in acquiring cultural knowledge through community-based experiences. The associate degree nursing pathway offered by community colleges equips students with the necessary foundational knowledge and skills to deliver high-quality care while fostering cultural understanding.

One of the unique advantages of community colleges is their ability to leverage community-based experiences as a powerful tool for cultural learning. Nursing students can actively engage with their local communities, serving as a bridge between healthcare providers and the diverse populations they aim to assist. Community-based experiences expose students to a variety of cultural backgrounds, enabling them to develop a deeper understanding of different beliefs, customs, and healthcare practices.

Partnerships with community organizations further enhance cultural connections in nursing education. Collaborations provide nursing students with opportunities to work directly with community members from different cultural backgrounds. Through these partnerships, students can learn about unique cultural perspectives, participate in health promotion activities, and contribute to community-based initiatives.

The associate degree nursing pathway offered by community colleges empowers students to become culturally competent healthcare professionals. The curriculum of associate degree nursing programs includes courses that emphasize cultural competence and the significance of cultural connections in healthcare. Students learn about cultural diversity, healthcare disparities, transcultural nursing practices, and strategies for delivering culturally congruent care.


Cultural connections formed through community-based work are crucial in nursing education. By engaging with international communities, tribal colleges, HBCUs, and local organizations, nursing students develop cultural competence that enables them to deliver healthcare to diverse populations. These experiences empower nursing graduates to meet people where they are at, honoring their cultural beliefs and providing equitable care. By fostering cultural connections within our communities, community colleges and the associate degree nursing pathway contribute to the growth of graduates who are not only skilled healthcare professionals but also compassionate global citizens.