Volume 36, Issue 2 ,2014

Challenges in providing culturally-competent care to patients with metastatic brain tumours and their families
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By Lianne Longo, RN, MSc(A), CNN(C), and Serena Slater, RN, MSc(A)


Being diagnosed with a metastatic brain tumour can be devastating as it is characterized by very low cure rates, as well as significant morbidity and mortality. Given the poor life expectancy and progressive disability that ensues, patients and family members experience much turmoil, which includes losses that bring about changes to family roles, routines and relationships. Crisis and conflict are common during such major disruptions to a family system, as individual members attempt to make sense of the illness experience based on cultural and spiritual beliefs, past experiences and personal philosophies. It is imperative health care providers strive towards increased awareness and knowledge of how culture affects the overall experience of illness and death in order to help create a mutually satisfactory care plan. Providing culturally-competent care entails the use of proper communication skills to facilitate the exploration of patient and family perspectives and allows for mutual decision making. A case study will illustrate the challenges encountered in providing culturally-competent care to a woman with brain cancer and her family. As the patient’s health declined, the family entered into a state of crisis where communication between family members and health care professionals was strained; leading to conflict and sub-optimal outcomes. This paper will address the ethical dilemma of providing culturally-competent care when a patient’s safety is at risk, and the nursing implications of upholding best practices in the context of differing beliefs and priorities.

N.B. The names of the patient and family members have been changed to respect confidentiality and privacy.