Is Your Organization Culturally Competent?

Updated on November 18, 2017

By Kim Bassett

Cultural competence in healthcare is defined as the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural and linguistics needs of patients.

In healthcare it is our job to take care of all patients regardless of our own beliefs. No one is immune to needing care and it is our duty to make every effort to help meet the unique needs of each patient. Employing cultural competence throughout an organization not only shows respect for minority groups — their culture, beliefs and values, but also fosters trust which enables us to perform our job more effectively.

Why cultural competence is important.

Improved health outcomes – through increased communication, we are able to diagnose and treat patients more quickly and completely.

Improved quality of care – much in the art of healing is being able to offer peace of mind to our patients. Often this lies in understanding the patient’s values and beliefs. Accommodating them could be as simple as allowing them to have a spiritual blessing or eating a specific “healing” food.

Increased patient satisfaction – as with people in general, when patients feel heard and are comfortable and secure, it leads to a better experience for them. This is very important not only to the patient, but also the overall health of the organization as this satisfaction leads to repeat use of the your facility.

Steps to achieve cultural competence within your organization.

  1. Do what it takes to actually listen to the needs of your patients.  Often this will require additional time on your part to truly listen. 
  2. Take appropriate steps to educate your staff on being culturally sensitive.  Help your staff think through how they feel about differences among the patients they care for.  Giving thought to this ahead of time will help your staff when they actually face cultural challenges when providing care. 
  3. Figure out ways to speak your patient’s language. Hire an interpreter or use a virtual translation service.  Seek to hire staff that reflects the language and culture of the community you serve. 
  4. Involve the patient’s family or support systems whenever possible. 
  5. Find resources and form partnerships within your community. 

Whenever possible, it is important to employ a workforce that is representative of the community in which you serve. This will give your organization a natural edge in being culturally competent and help as you strive to create excellence in healthcare for your organization.

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