21. Competent Culturally

Hospital encounters between an English-speaking patient and an English-speaking provider can be, at times, challenging.

Add some cultural complexity to the mix and things can get downright difficult.

While requiring all employees to learn 20+ (ok, a lot more) languages is impossible, providing education on the cultural necessities is possible—and mandatory.

In an APM Marketplace story by Alyssa Wagner, Adela de la Torre–a professor at the University of California at Davis–speaks on the importance of being culturally competent:

It means recognizing that when you enter into a patient encounter that you are not the expert in every domain, that there is an opportunity to learn. If you understand the cultural background, the lifestyle of your patient, you can better treat your patient.

Dorcas Walton, a chief nurse executive at a Kaiser Permanente hospital in Oakland, Calif., talks about the difficulties her staff faces (from the APM story):

One culture you’re allowed to look the person in the eye and another culture says no, that’s disrespectful. We have to teach our staff how to demonstrate caring for the variety of patients they’re taking care of.

Principle #21: The ability to interact with people from a wide variety of cultures is mandatory in the health care industry. Cultural competence education (and demonstrated application) for everyone.  our own system must be able to respond to the needs of all patients.

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