No matter what language her patients’ families speak, Lani Hollenbeck, BSN, BSW, RN, BC, has found that being willing to listen sends a universal message of caring. Hollenbeck, a nurse in special diagnostics at Children’s – Minneapolis, has drawn on a personal interest in other cultures to transform her practice as a nurse. Now she is taking steps to help others learn how to transform their practice as well.

Several years ago, one of her nursing professors challenged Hollenbeck to examine her practice. “I realized that I was not comfortable when working with non-English speaking families. I needed to take personal responsibility for learning about cultural care practices,” says Hollenbeck.

Hollenbeck studied evidence-based cultural care practices. This included actively seeking opportunities to learn about other cultures — through movies, books, restaurants, conferences, online resources, and conversations with colleagues and interpreters at Children’s. She wrote articles about her experiences for Children’s nursing Web site, shared information with the professional practice committee, helped prepare a learning manual for her unit, and created a presentation detailing how to promote cultural health competencies in nursing.

“Now I am much more confident about my interactions. I’ve learned a great deal from our interpreters about when making eye contact is appropriate, talking slowly and deliberately, and being quiet and ready to listen. Most important, we need to be presence-oriented, not necessarily task-oriented. You can get everything you need as a nurse by listening and having families tell their stories.”