The culturally competent healthcare provider

Posted on March 17, 2009. Filed under: American culture, arab culture, Asian culture, cross cultural communication, diversity, Hatian culture, healthcare, hispanic culture | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Healthcare providers face multiple challenges when working with patients from different cultures. Unlike managers and employees who work with diverse coworkers and customers, healthcare providers interpretations and decisions impact the patient’s life and future.

I enjoy delivering culture training to healthcare workers. They usually “get it” and understand the importance the role culture plays in their interactions, as well as the idea that culture is more than  just ethnicity.

Still, I often hear the frustration healthcare workers encounter when providing services to members of other cultures. Even though they have the best intentions, they often don’t know how to address these differences.

Examples include:

1. Only immediate family were allowed to visit a patient in the hospital. About 12 members of an extended Hispanic family showed up, wanting to see the patient. When the provider said, “only immediate family” the response was, “We are immediate family!”  To them, the idea that a cousin or aunt is any less immediate was ridiculous.

2. A woman from Jordan was in consultation with a physician, her elder brother by her side. Before she would make any decisions or offer any responses, she would look at her brother, have a quick conversation in Arabic, and then the brother would provide the answer. The physician thought she could build a better relationship with the patient without the brother in the room. When she asked him to leave, the patient panicked and started to cry.

3.  An Hispanic patient brought her 3 children with her for her MRI, even though the healthcare provider explained that the testing would take about 1 hour, and the children could not be left unattended in the waiting room.

4. During intake at a psychiatric hospital, an Asian woman refuses to make eye contact with the healthcare provider. The provider isn’t sure if it’s cultural or related to a mental illness.

One workshop participant told a story that showed the importance of active listening, clarifying, summarizing and probing for more information. She said she was offering bereavement counseling for a Haitian woman who had just lost her 3-year-old daughter. In discussion, it came up that the woman did not attend her child’s funeral with the rest of the family. At first, the counselor was shocked at what she initially saw as a horrible thing for a parent to do. Without judging the Haitian woman, she engaged her in further discussion, only to learn that she was pregnant, and didn’t want to risk the life of her new baby by going into a cemetery. She was, by her cultural standard, being a caring and protective mother. A fact that only came out because the provider took the time to learn more.

 What cross cultural issues have you encountered in the healthcare system?

 

About these ads

Make a Comment

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

2 Responses to “The culturally competent healthcare provider”

RSS Feed for tasteslikechicken2me Comments RSS Feed

That is fascinating. Some limited anti-oppression training has allowed me to think about these issues, but the examples you have here really highlight them in a stark fashion.

This is wonderful, Lauren, to highlight these cultural differences and I’m glad you’re giving culture training to healthcare workers. It is so needed.

One of your comments above led me to remember one evening on a hospital oncology floor where I was with my ill mother on one of her many stays there. A Hispanic man was dying in one of the small private rooms like my mothers’, and there was a veritable family crowd, I mean crowd, of loving people in his room and spilling out into the hall. I was amazed, and thought, how wonderful. We had moved to the Southwest from OK and that large family could never have been the picture for my mother unless we had stayed in OK.

I came to your blog from a reference in the NYTimes and I’m glad I did. I’ll look at more of your blog.

BTW, my nephew, a Caucasian, just married a Korean born in Korea and raised in MI. They are mature older singles who waited for just the right one and just the right time in their lives. I think it will be exciting for them to work out their cultural differences.


Where's The Comment Form?

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

%d bloggers like this: