Diversity in Healthcare

3 March 2017

Diversity in Healthcare Have you ever been to the doctor and don’t quite understand what the provider is telling you, or are you a healthcare worker and you don’t understand your patients? Should the healthcare provider get diversity training or should they maybe learn new languages? More than ever before, healthcare professionals are subjected to dealing with a number of immense and different cultural diversities. While diversity is often a term used to refer specifically to cultural differences, diversity applies to all the qualities that make people different.

Diversity requires more than knowing about individual differences and it key for overcoming cross-cultural barriers in healthcare. As cultures within the U. S. continue to grow at a huge number, the understanding of how to deal with them must also grow. The U. S. is projected to become increasingly more ethnically and racially diverse by 2020. Anyone who has faced the challenge of visiting a hospital in a non-English-speaking country knows both how frustrating and how frightening it can be.

When there is any impediment to the healthcare professional’s ability to discuss your situation and options or your own ability to ask questions, the likelihood of receiving the care you need is compromised, sometimes dangerously. If cultural differences are not communicated appropriately it can cause uncomfortable and confusing situations for both the healthcare provider and the patient. This can cause the patient to suffer due to loss of trust and respect, causing the patient to be less likely to follow a treatment plan. I feel that culturally competent healthcare is considered a human right.

Everyone should receive the same treatment. Knowledge of cultural practices can also be important in determining a correct diagnosis and treatment. Differences in culture, language, and literacy between providers and patients can lead to ineffective communication about symptoms, medications, and supplements. Examples of cultural barriers include instances in which the healthcare provider may overlook harmful interactions between medications and traditional remedies used by the patient, and circumstances in which the provider is unfamiliar with cultural elements connected with racial or ethnic groups.

The values and expectations that a patient brings to the care experience may be in conflict with the values of the clinician who is providing care. These limitations may lead to faulty diagnoses, unnecessary laboratory testing, medication-related errors, decreased adherence to therapy, or missed opportunities for early detection and preventive measures. The consequences of cultural disconnect are disparities in the quality of care received by racial and ethnic minority populations. It is important that health care practitioners recognize cultural practice and not let it distract them from the real problem.

Since different cultures such as Hispanics, Hmongs, or Mexicans, vary in the way they perceive health and illness and how care is given, being culturally competent and ethnically diverse and accepting is going to become more and more important in the delivery of western medicine. Former President Bill Clinton’s Initiative on Race and Health Town Hall Meeting on July 10, 1998, defined cultural competency as “being able to give care to people of different cultures. ” Cultural competence seems to be showing up more and more in all aspects of healthcare. It’s one of the main ingredients in closing the disparities gap in health care.

The reason seems to be: achieving cultural competency is top priority; because it is the right thing to do. Not only is it important in the way patients are evaluated, but how they are treated and educated (medically and pharmaceutically) about their health and maintaining good health. This could be as simple as speaking their own language and describing medical conditions in their own language. Many nurses might regard a patient who refuses to take a certain medication, constantly has a room full of visitors or demands that a family member feed them as being noncompliant.

However, nurses who dig deeper may discover these behaviors are a product of the patient’s cultural beliefs and values — deep-rooted ideologies that nurses can preserve or accommodate. To be culturally competent the nurse needs to understand his/her own world views and those of the patient, while avoiding stereotyping and misapplication of scientific knowledge. Cultural competence is obtaining cultural information and then applying that knowledge. This cultural awareness allows you to see the entire picture and improves the quality of care and health outcomes such as a Hispanics not understanding how or when to take a medication.

I feel the health staff should use all resources in obtaining an interpreter to make sure that the patient fully understands what they are taking, when, why and what it is for. “To be a true patient advocate, a nurse needs to be culturally aware,” says Sue Hasenau, RN, MSN, a certified neonatal nurse practitioner and member f the TransCultural Nursing Society. According to an article written by Duane Reynolds, “At some point in the future, healthcare professionals and providers will be forced to make cultural diversity and understanding a priority within their organizations, or they will suffer penalties from Medicare and Medicaid.

Consequently, a strong, proactive approach to increasing cultural competence will prove beneficial. ” Providing effective, sensitive healthcare for patients of other cultures requires empathy, flexibility and a commitment to continuous learning. How can nurses successfully work with and care for the nation’s increasingly diverse patient population? Here are some general guidelines: Don’t make assumptions, explain every detail to the patient, ask about alternative approaches to healing, withhold judgments, and accommodate and educate.

To deliver truly culturally competent care, “We have to look at where our patients are coming from and what their ideas of wellness and illness are,” Hasenau says. Adapting to different cultural beliefs and practices requires flexibility and a respect for others view points. Cultural competence means to really listen to the patient, to find out and learn about the patient’s beliefs of health and illness. To provide culturally appropriate care we need to know and to understand culturally influenced health behaviors.

However, becoming culturally competent is a much more daunting task. Culture (and ethnicity) often influences a patient’s perceptions of health and illness. Therefore, if healthcare providers appear insensitive to cultural diversity, their actions may negatively affect the quality of the healthcare that they provide. More Diverse Healthcare Professionals lead to positive patient outcomes. Racial and ethnic minorities have higher rates of poor health outcomes than white in the case of disease, even when income, employment status and insurance coverage are controlled.

Cultural bias is one contributor to this, according to the IOM Report Unequal Treatment: Confronting Racial/Ethnic Disparities in Health Care. As noted, more diverse and culturally competent healthcare professionals would help reduce health disparities. More diverse healthcare professional student should train the future healthcare professionals from more ethnically diverse populations to meet the continuing needs of the overall population. This will expand the future of the “diverse” workforce.

If health care professionals are serious about their desire to provide the best possible care for all patients, regardless of race, gender or ethnic origin, it is essential that they educate themselves and become culturally competent. Obviously it is not possible to know everything about every culture, but the first important step is an awareness of the fact that different cultures have different rules of appropriate behavior. Clearly, going beyond awareness, diversity requires more than knowing about individual differences and is key for overcoming cross-cultural barriers.

The bottom line in healthcare is providing the best and optimal patient care. Patients should understand their care and treatment plan(s) in a language that they can read and speak. It is important for their healthcare providers to be able to communicate with them. This will likely make patients more compliant and adherent to their appointments, tests and treatments, resulting in better health for the patients, and healthcare professionals will have an easier time providing the care they need. “It is because we are different that each of us is special” says Brian Dyson.

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