Updated Dec. 17, 2021
In today's world, it's becoming more common for healthcare workers in all levels of the field to encounter patients from cultures beyond their own, from obstetrics to palliative care. Now more than ever, it's also critical for medical professionals to connect with those in cultures different from their own in order to provide the best care possible in their position.
Cultural competence in the healthcare field enables medical professionals to bridge the gap in cross-cultural situations which ensures each and every patient receives adequate attention and gets their needs met. Without cultural competency training, the risk of failed care is high. This is why every healthcare professional needs cultural competency training.
What Is Cultural Competence in Healthcare?
According to Tulane University's School of Public Health and Tropical Medicine, cultural competence is “a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes and policies that enables effective work in cross-cultural situations.” Further, cross-cultural awareness is the “ability to recognize the cultural factors, norms, values, communication patterns/types, socio-economic status and world views that can shape personal and professional behavior.” When healthcare professionals are aware of different cultures and the beliefs and behaviors that encompass different groups, interactions are more effective and devoid of offensive responses and actions.
Importance of Cultural Competency in Healthcare
In a healthcare setting, cultural competence will allow a healthcare professional to properly assess a situation and modify individual behaviors in order to meet the needs of patients in other cultures “while maintaining a professional level of respect, objectivity, and identity.” An individual from a different culture may approach a situation differently than you would. Cultural factors may influence how they define and evaluate situations, seek help for problems, present problems and information, and respond to interventions and service plans.
The Joint Commission is the nation’s oldest and largest standards-setting and accrediting body in healthcare. Their mission is to ensure that “all people always experience the safest, highest quality, best value healthcare across all settings.” In order to provide this level of care, healthcare professionals need to possess cultural agility, intercultural communication skills, and be culturally responsive. The Joint Commission offers valuable resources to assist with advancing effective communication, cultural competence, and patient- and family-centered care.
Cultural Competency Skills You Should Develop
- Active and unbiased listening skills
- Respect of others’ points-of-view
- Encouragement of expression of diverse opinions and perspectives
- Enacting appropriate methods for interacting sensitively, effectively, and professionally with people of all ages, lifestyles, races, ethnicities, and professions.
- Be able to recognize the important role of cultural, social, and behavioral factors when deciding the best method of delivery for public health services.
- Consider cultural, social, and behavioral factors when developing a care plan: behavior changes, compliance with treatment plans, medications, discharge plans, etc.
- Understanding the importance of the “dynamic forces contributing to cultural diversity” and “of a diverse public health workforce.”
Why You Should Participate in Cultural Competency Training
Anthem Blue Cross states the following reasons why it’s important to increase your cultural competency awareness:
- Perception of illnesses, diseases, and their causes varies by culture
- Beliefs about health, healing, and wellness vary from culture to culture
- Help-seeking behaviors and attitudes toward healthcare providers and services vary according to cultural and socio-economic factors.
- The number of healthcare providers from culturally and linguistically diverse groups is underrepresented.
- The development of cultural awareness is an ongoing process as individuals and different cultures change. With these changes, your understanding and ability to successfully reach different cultures are vital.
How to Select a Quality Cultural Competency Training
The PCC Institute for Health Professionals offers live cultural competency training which enables participants to interact with instructors and with one another. Online sessions are also presented live. Our six-hour training is taught by long-time cultural competency experts who have a history of working with healthcare professionals.
Cultural competency is a lifelong process of learning and not a “check-box” of do’s and don’ts. A genuine understanding of and relationship with people from different cultures and backgrounds will go a long way in delivering successful patient-centered care.