Mexican-Americans comprise a significant fraction in the population of ethnic groups in the United States of America. This group is characterized with a unique and rich culture that essentially affects the Mexican-American’s health beliefs and status. In the Mexican-American culture, physical or mental illness may be attributed to an imbalance between the person and the environment he is in. Specifically, the occurrence of illnesses may be attributed on the imbalance of body fluids (humors) (Constantine et al. 110-125). Certain illnesses occur due to the predominance of “cold” fluids in the body. Some do due to the predominance of “hot” fluids. Further, health is maintained and restored through observance and practice of hygiene and healthy dietary pattern. Mexican-Americans typically take a bath daily. They also take good care of their skin and hair on a regular basis. They follow food practices based on the premise that there should be a balance on “bodily fluid” taking into account Galen’s humoral theory- that is illnesses are caused by the imbalance on these bodily fluids (Lipson and Minarik 190).
In times of illness, home remedies are often sought by Mexican-Americans prior to consulting to medical professionals. Home care is usually provided by the female members of household. Often, many Mexican-Americans do not seek medical assistance until home remedies have failed and illness interferes with their ability to carry out activities of daily living (ADL). In contrast, individuals with adequate health insurance will seek medical assistance sooner.
On the availability of health resources and accessibility to healthcare services, majority of Mexican-Americans (66.8%) are covered with health insurance in the United States, however this percentage is the lowest among all groups in the country. Further, approximately 60% of Mexican-American families, receive and annual income of less than 200 percent than the Federal poverty rate, thereby further intensifying the burden among Mexican-Americans to access and receive affordable healthcare. Further, Mexican-Americans, as with the other groups in the United States, do have access to ambulatory care units (i.e., neighborhood health centers) in the country (Lipson and Minarik 105-110). Should conventional medical practices are not sought by Mexican-Americans in times illnesses, they often resort to traditional medical beliefs and practices such as faith healing (Jones and Brady 211).
On pregnancy and childbirth, the concept of “Familialism” (i.e., strong attachment to nuclear and extended family) provides supportive and respectful environment for pregnant women. Further, pregnant women are often required to frequently rest, walk, eat well, and get plenty of sleep. Also, some of the pregnant woman’s relatives (ideally women also) assume the role of the soon-to-be mother and assist her in her pregnancy. After gjving birth, a traditional 40-day period of recuperation called “la cuarentena” is given to the mother. Women are cared for by other women, but are expected to care for new born. Domestic chores are often taken on by female relatives or friends (Lipson and Minarik 205-210).
Lastly, in times of grief, the concept of “Familiamism” is still manifested in the grieving Mexican-American family. Also, religious personnel (i.e., priest) also provide emotional and spiritual support to the family (Lipson and Minarik 289-291).
Some of the most interesting cultural characteristics among Mexican-Americans are their patronage and respect to their indigenous health beliefs and practices and their strict adherence to “Familiamism” or having close family ties. In the contemporary setting where technological advances in the field of medicine are ubiquitous, it is highly commendable for an ethnic group to have its unique and traditional health beliefs and practices be observed and practiced still – this only manifest the respect to the preceding generations who have passed on these health beliefs and practices to the younger ones. Further, it is only interesting to note the level of cooperation of family members in almost all life’s events of a Mexican-American – from childbirth to death. This also manifests the significance of family in the culture of Mexican-Americans.
The provision of care to clientele (i.e., patient, family, community) entails a holistic approach. This approach includes measures geared towards giving significance to all factors directly or indirectly affecting the clientele’s well being. The application of holistic care means application of nursing measures in all levels of health promotion (i.e., prevention, cure, rehabilitation) that are aimed towards promoting and/ or preserving an individual’s physical, emotional, intellectual, social and spiritual well-being. Albeit all significant in nature, these factors are usually not all taken into consideration in the application of nursing measures. More often than not, the physical well-being is prioritized the most and the other facets are either taken for granted or if not left to the discretion of a health care provider (e.g., nurse) to promote.
Through this study, I have been made aware on the significant impact of nursing care on the cultural well-being and diversity of patients most particularly among Mexican-Americans. Issues such as the patient’s traditional health beliefs and practices and preferred complementary/alternative medical practices and the inclusion of these practices to patient’s plan of care should be taken into consideration in the practice of nursing profession. Further, the diversity of the patients with various cultural beliefs/orientations is also another essential point to consider as an assessment parameter. Thus, I will highly emphasize and consider the assessment, diagnosis, planning, implementation and evaluation of the patient’s cultural characteristics and well-being as they progress on the health-illness continuum.
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