Culture refers to the unique behavioral patterns and lifestyles that are shared by groups of individuals, people and such patterns distinguish and provide clear cut differences between the variety of groups. Any culture is characterized by the totality of a varied set of beliefs, views, values, customs, life ways, and behavioral patterns, products of human work, thoughts and attitudes towards life, which are learned and transmitted within the family. Culture influences the health of variety of individuals in the way the people conceptualize a given illness, utilization of the healthcare system, their overall relation to heath care providers, and acceptance of medical prescriptions and requires that the health providers recognize, respect, and integrate their client’s cultural beliefs and practices into health prescriptions (Tseng, Streltzer, 2008).
Cultural competence refers to the ability of health care providers to apply knowledge and skills appropriately to interact effectively with individuals from different and varied cultures. It comprises of such components as the awareness of one’s own cultural worldview, existence, sensation, and thoughts, cross cultural skills, knowledge of different cultural practices and worldviews of clients health related needs and illness, and the attitudes towards cultural differences. Cultural competence requires a basic understanding of core concepts such as culture, race, ethnicity, diversity, marginalization, and minority. The concept of cultural competence includes respect, knowledge and skills and the ability to effectively use them in cross cultural situations, and involve the incorporation and explicit use of culturally based care and health knowledge in sensitive, creative, meaningful and productive ways (Srivastava, 2007).
Importance of cultural competence in health care
- Cultural competence within the health care ensures ample environment for the interaction between the health provider and the client in that the development of cultural sensitivity promotes a mutual link between the patient and the health care system, reducing conflict arising from different meaning ascribed to sickness and other ailments by both the patient and the health care provider.
- It enables and ensures that health care providers easily recognize the unique needs of their patients and provide quality health care services in turn satisfying the client’s health needs ensuring effective health management.
- Cultural competence within the health care promotes equality and understanding between the existing cultures, reducing the chances of cultural stereotyping, marginalization of certain groups promoting the overall well being of the entire population without prejudice in service provision from the health care providers.
- It promotes acceptance of individuals having and facing questionable medical, physical conditions that would once make the individuals to have a feeling of being marginalized, for example the gay, lesbians, and the transgender will have equal opportunity and chance to express themselves and access health care services like other individuals within the community.
- Promotion of perspective integration between the patient and the health care provider, as the patient and the provider will approach a clinical and or medical encounter from a common viewpoint and hence a common ground, resulting into a common understanding, perception, interpretation, and response to both illness and medical prescription.
- Patient care and the overall lives of patients from the various cultures are improved because of the adoption of cultural competence, as there is effective communication and cooperation among the health care providers and the patients.
- Cultural competence promotes diversity of the workforce in terms of attitudes, beliefs, thoughts and views concerning individual groups, diseases, illness among others that affect individuals, by bringing about necessary adjustments in judgments by the health providers (Berenson, 2009).
- Cultural destructiveness which defines attitudes, practices, and the organizational policies that focus on the superiority of one culture hence dehumanizing and destroying other existing cultures by the health care providers.
- Lack of cross cultural competence promotes misunderstanding and provision of wrong diagnosis and prognosis of diseases, ailments and their overall treatment hence resulting into poor quality of health care services and incompetence within the medical field.
- Majority of conflicts associated with health care will rise, resulting into poor interpretation, and response to the client’s needs because of prejudice from health providers, this affects the overall productivity, emotional attachment and competence of health providers.
- Reduction of competitive advantage of heath care providers and the entire organization because of the limited and biased reflection on directive strategy, including mission, vision, and value statement and strategy plans for the entire health care organization. Lack of motivation of the health care staff due to the prejudiced relationship they tend to exhibit with the individuals they serve, resulting into a decrease in the quality of customer service (Rose, 2010).
Methods of assessing cultural beliefs
- Interviews-these refers to either face to face or online communication between the clients and the person acquiring information concerning the cultural beliefs. Through such communication, varied information concerning the nature of one’s culture can be brought into light.
- Literature reviews-involves the process of reviewing the critical points of the current knowledge. This includes the findings of theoretical and methodological contributions of a particular culture in terms of beliefs, practices, and customs in existence.
- Observation is an active process that involves receiving knowledge of the outside world through the senses, or the recording of the data using scientific instruments. The people from different cultures are observed and the findings about their diversity noted for future references and comparison.
Strategies used to enhance Cross-cultural Competence
- In order to promote cultural competence, the health care professionals can undergo periodical training, and attending seminars concerning the issues of different cultures. Such cultural competence training helps one succeed, by raising awareness of thoughts, behaviors, and approach of people from different cultures, use of cultural diversity to advantage by harnessing different approaches and competencies, improving working relationships across cultures, and potential problems and equipping one with strategies to solve them. Such training will enable building multi-cultural teams and ensure and promote cultural diversity and understanding between the health providers, fostering contact with global clients to ensure profitable service delivery from the health care system.
- Use of evaluation tools including constant assessments given to the professionals in terms of structured questions, multiple choices, and self-assessment questions that should be addressed constantly within the health care organization will promote increased knowledge concerning the different cultures, beliefs, and practices that will create diversity in understanding the ways and procedures of effectively dealing with uprising conflicts without infringing the health care morals and code of conduct.
- Conducting research about information concerning the different cultures, and their influence on the health care practices will also ensure the well equipment of health care professionals with the information concerning various cultures.
Culture refers to both the implicit and explicit behavior patterns that are exhibited across the society by individuals of different groups. Cultural competence describes the general effective interaction of health care providers with individuals from a variety of cultures.
It promotes integration and mutual understanding in terms of cooperation between health providers and clients to promote profitability of delivery of services.
Berenson, D, L. (2009). Cultural competencies for nurses: impact on health and illness. London: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Rose, R, P. (2010). Cultural Competency for Health Administration and Public Health. London: Jones & Bartlett Learning.
Srivastava, R. (2007). The healthcare professional’s guide to clinical cultural competence. Toronto: Elsevier Health Sciences.
Tseng, W, S. and Streltzer, J. (2008). Cultural competence in health care. New York: Springer.