Closing the Gap on Cultural Competency

Closing the Gap on Cultural Competency

Abstract Culture includes all aspects of an individual including ethnicity, race, gender, nationality, socioeconomic class, age, religious affiliation and sexual orientation. Cultural competency is a major issue that needs to be addressed in order to in closing the disparities gap in health care. Developing cultural competency enables patients and doctors to communicate about health concerns without cultural differences hindering the conversation.

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Closing the Gap on Cultural Competency Cultural competence is obtaining information about cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs and then applying that knowledge to develop awareness that effectively communicate and work with individuals from other cultures in their community. One of the largest barriers to becoming culturally competent is that many of the visible aspects of culture are associated with stereotypes.

When these stereotypes are used as the sole source of information, they can lead to inaccurate assumptions. Other barriers to cultural competence include lack of knowledge of resources to learn about other cultures and fear or intimidations of approaching individuals from other cultures and discussing their culture with them. School curriculum should include programs for cultural competency.

A culturally competent program should “value diversity, conducts self-assessment, addresses issues that arise when different cultures interact, acquires and institutionalizes cultural knowledge, and adapts to the cultures of the individuals and communities served. ” (Advocates for Youth, 2004). Students should not only learn about other cultures but become aware of oneself, identifying who they are culturally. Students should become aware of their culture and how things like gender, skin color, native language, education, and their own culture influences their personal belief system.

Culturally competent healthcare is important, it means optimizing quality care by being respectful of and responsive to the cultural factors that influence patients’ attitudes and behaviors. A culturally competent healthcare professional means recognizing and respecting each patient’s unique set of values and beliefs to ensure the best possible health outcomes. It is important to know the various cultures of patient population and to ask respectful and nonjudgmental questions rather than making assumptions.

The manner in which a person presents for care; their style of communication, their access to medical services, and the type of services available; the level of trust placed in the medical system, including acceptance of a diagnosis; compliance with treatment plans; and, ultimately, the outcome of medical encounters, are all examples of the effects of culture on health concerns. The role of the health care provider is to bridge the gap between the system and the patient.

One way of becoming a culturally competent healthcare worker is to identify the different domains of the cultures that are encountered at the healthcare facilities. The Purnell Model (Purnell et al. , 2008, p. 22) offers a method to develop a comprehensive understanding of culture. The model includes twelve domains of culture; heritage, communication, family roles and organization, workforce issues, biocultural ecology, high-risk, nutrition, pregnancy and childbearing practices, death rituals, spirituality, health care practices, and health care practitioners.

Identifying and understanding these domains can aid in understanding the cultures and optimize the quality of healthcare patients receive. The biggest difference any healthcare professional can make is to be an example. By having a willingness to discuss the culture with co-workers and expose themselves to different cultures they can not only gain better understandings of the cultures in their community but also show others how to overcome their intimidation of learning about other cultures.

Setting an example teaches others to develop an open dialogue about cultures benefits the patients and the staff. References Advocates for Youth. (2004). Creating Culturally Competent Programs . Retrieved from http://www. advocatesforyouth. org/index. php? option=com_content&task=view&id=715&Itemid=336 Purnell, L. , & Paulanka, B. (2008). Transcultural health care: A culturally competent approach (3rd ed. ). PA: FA Davis


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