April 8, 2013
Standards of Culturally Competent Care
In 1963 Bob Dylan wrote the words "For the times they are a-changing" as part of the lyrics for a popular song of his. During the current millennium the term "global economy" has become a key word throughout the world of finance. These two well-known expressions are precursors to today's major issue of "cultural competency". The world has changed and is global in many aspects. The influx of immigrants into the United States has continued and differences in cultures have become more and more prominent. Throughout the United States especially cultural differences have had and will continue to have a major impact on the healthcare industry. According to The Office of Minority Health “Cultural competency is one of the main ingredients in closing the disparities gap in health care. It’s the way patients and doctors can come together and talk about health concerns without cultural differences hindering the conversation, but enhancing it. Quite simply, health care services that are respectful of and responsive to the health beliefs, practices and cultural and linguistic needs of diverse patients can help bring about positive health outcomes”. (The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013) Culture and language may influence: health, healing, and wellness belief systems; how illness, disease, and their causes are perceived; both by the patient/consumer and the behaviors of patients/consumers who are seeking health care and their attitudes toward health care providers; as well as the delivery of services by the provider who looks at the world through his or her own limited set of values, which can compromise access for patients from other cultures. My personal career track has been working in and supervising and directing in Emergency Departments where the proportional rate of foreign language, especially Spanish speaking, patients has continually risen. Emergency Departments across the United States have been an area where cultural differences have been evident for a long time. With the huge influx of English language challenged immigrants who not only have not had the means to secure jobs providing health care plans, but have also been saddled with the fear of deportation if they are considered "illegal" hindering their health care options, Emergency Departments have had to change their cultural competency to address this populations' immediate healthcare needs. On any given day the healthcare providers in an Emergency Department can be faced with incredible diversity including the ethnic groups of Mexicans, Dominicans, Haitians, Asians, Central and South Americans, Middle Easterners, Russians, Scandinavians, Orthodox Jews, and on and on. Each of these ethnic groups brings with it their own cultural identities including language, beliefs, socio - economic status (the wealthy, the middle class, the poor and the homeless) and pre - conceived attitudes towards the American healthcare system. It is to say the least challenging to put aside our own cultural beliefs and methods in order to treat each and every culturally diverse patient with the same caring, competent healthcare each of us as individuals would expect. My previous and current Emergency Departments have had to identify and define ways and means of meeting the cultural and language barrier differences in order to deliver systems of healthcare to this diverse population of patients. Outlining, establishing and implementing cross-culturally communication processes was only the first major step in delivering culturally competent healthcare to all who walk through the Emergency Department doors. Our healthcare delivery systems had to be gradually reorganized in order to meet the needs of these patients. As healthcare providers we needed not only to solve the language barrier, we also needed to find ways to incorporate...