Toward cultural safety: nurse and patient perceptions of illicit substance use in a hospitalized setting

ANS Adv Nurs Sci. 2015 Apr-Jun;38(2):121-35. doi: 10.1097/ANS.0000000000000070.


As a group, people who use illicit drugs and are affected by social disadvantages often experience health inequities and encounter barriers such as stigma and discrimination when accessing health care services. Cultural safety has been proposed as one approach to address health inequities and mitigate stigma in health care. Drawing on a qualitative ethnographic approach within an overarching collaborative framework, we sought to gain an understanding of what constitutes culturally safe care for people who use(d) illicit drugs. The findings illustrate that illicit substance use in hospitals is often negatively constructed as (1) an individual failing, (2) a criminal activity, and (3) a disease of "addiction" with negative impacts on access to care, management of pain, and provision of harm-reduction supplies and services. These constructions of illicit substance use impact patients' feelings of safety in hospital and nurses' capacity to provide culturally safe care. On the basis of these findings, we provide recommendations and guidance for the development of culturally safe nursing practice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Communication
  • Cultural Competency*
  • Humans
  • Illicit Drugs*
  • Nurse's Role*
  • Nurse-Patient Relations*
  • Nursing Staff, Hospital / organization & administration*
  • Patient Safety
  • Safety Management / organization & administration
  • Substance-Related Disorders / nursing*
  • Substance-Related Disorders / prevention & control


  • Illicit Drugs