Journal of Gerontological Nursing

Letter to the Editor 

Cultural Understanding (with response)

Diana Baldwin

Abstract

I am writing about the article by Kim, Jeon, Sok, Oh, and Kim (“Quality of Life of Korean and Korean American Older Adults,” June 2009, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 28–34). I found the content to be very interesting, as I am currently a nursing student and Korean American. I believe nurses need to take into great consideration the vast differences of each culture and the possible outcomes that could arise from understanding the patients’ beliefs regarding their health. I have family members both here in the United States and in Korea, and this article gave me a new perspective on how the transformation from one culture to the next may have affected their physical and mental well-being.

This study found that, like most older adults, maintaining or improving the quality of life is one of the major issues nurses face today with this specific population. With Korean American older adults, certain factors must be considered when initiating a plan of care to predict a positive nursing outcome, such as language barriers, socioeconomic status, alienation, and lack of physical activity that may hinder these patients. Although these factors may be aspects to examine when dealing with any patient who is culturally different from ourselves, they seem to be the main problems that plague this specific group from improving their quality of life in the United States.

A research study by Jang, Kim, and Chiriboga (2006) also found that older Korean Americans viewed their health and mental status positively depending on how well acculturation and a sense of self-worth was perceived by each participant. The study also supports the findings that certain demographic, health status, and psychosocial factors played a role in emotional status within this population. Although both studies found similar factors that affect the health status of Korean American older adults, the lack of research studies available made it difficult to compare the current findings. Although I understand the complexity in which data were collected, it was also discouraging to know that Kim et al.’s study could not be generalized for possible future research.

Living in a society in which multiple cultures coincide, the issue of sensitivity to each individual’s belief must be in the forethought of every nurse to ensure that proper care is given for that specific patient and his or her family. I appreciate that this research gave me a better understanding of my culture, not only as a Korean American myself but also as a future nurse who will possibly be providing care for this population. Thank you for including this very important subject in your journal. Hopefully the results from this study will prompt more research to be conducted on this matter.

Diana Baldwin
Rockford, Illinois

Thank you so much for your comments about our article. Maintaining or improving quality of life (QOL) is an especially important focus of nursing practice when working with older adults.

Currently, many older adult immigrants from various nations are living in the United States. It is very important for nurses to consider cultural differences when working to improve the QOL of these older adults. Therefore, trans-cultural studies in relation to their QOL are continuously needed. As you commented, if nurses are consciously aware of their clients’ heritage, nursing care can include culturally accurate and appropriate judgments, leading to effective interventions.

Sohyune R. Sok, PhD, RN
Seoul, Republic of Korea

To the Editor:

I am writing about the article by Kim, Jeon, Sok, Oh, and Kim (“Quality of Life of Korean and Korean American Older Adults,” June 2009, Vol. 35, No. 6, pp. 28–34). I found the content to be very interesting, as I am currently a nursing student and Korean American. I believe nurses need to take into great consideration the vast differences of each culture and the possible outcomes that could arise from understanding the patients’ beliefs regarding their health. I have family members both here in the United States and in Korea, and this article gave me a new perspective on how the transformation from one culture to the next may have affected their physical and mental well-being.

This study found that, like most older adults, maintaining or improving the quality of life is one of the major issues nurses face today with this specific population. With Korean American older adults, certain factors must be considered when initiating a plan of care to predict a positive nursing outcome, such as language barriers, socioeconomic status, alienation, and lack of physical activity that may hinder these patients. Although these factors may be aspects to examine when dealing with any patient who is culturally different from ourselves, they seem to be the main problems that plague this specific group from improving their quality of life in the United States.

A research study by Jang, Kim, and Chiriboga (2006) also found that older Korean Americans viewed their health and mental status positively depending on how well acculturation and a sense of self-worth was perceived by each participant. The study also supports the findings that certain demographic, health status, and psychosocial factors played a role in emotional status within this population. Although both studies found similar factors that affect the health status of Korean American older adults, the lack of research studies available made it difficult to compare the current findings. Although I understand the complexity in which data were collected, it was also discouraging to know that Kim et al.’s study could not be generalized for possible future research.

Living in a society in which multiple cultures coincide, the issue of sensitivity to each individual’s belief must be in the forethought of every nurse to ensure that proper care is given for that specific patient and his or her family. I appreciate that this research gave me a better understanding of my culture, not only as a Korean American myself but also as a future nurse who will possibly be providing care for this population. Thank you for including this very important subject in your journal. Hopefully the results from this study will prompt more research to be conducted on this matter.

Diana Baldwin
Rockford, Illinois

Reference

  • Jang, Y., Kim, G. & Chiriboga, D.A. (2006). Health perception and depressive symptoms among older Korean Americans. Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, 21(3–4), 91–102. doi:10.1007/s10823-006-9026-y [CrossRef]

Response:

Thank you so much for your comments about our article. Maintaining or improving quality of life (QOL) is an especially important focus of nursing practice when working with older adults.

Currently, many older adult immigrants from various nations are living in the United States. It is very important for nurses to consider cultural differences when working to improve the QOL of these older adults. Therefore, trans-cultural studies in relation to their QOL are continuously needed. As you commented, if nurses are consciously aware of their clients’ heritage, nursing care can include culturally accurate and appropriate judgments, leading to effective interventions.

Sohyune R. Sok, PhD, RN
Seoul, Republic of Korea

10.3928/00989134-20091103-97

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