Educate yourself and then continue that education.
Education is key, said Nikeisha Whatley-León, who is a licensed clinical psychotherapist and the system director for Behavioral Health Services at Northside Hospital in Atlanta. This includes learning about how minorities are at a higher risk of developing many types of illnesses as well as the discrimination that they face in their daily lives. It’s also important to keep learning through continuing education, she said. “When we know better, we do better,” Whatley-León added.
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Assess your own cultural competency.
Minoritynurse.com suggests using an online cultural competence self-assessment tool to determine your own strengths and weaknesses when caring for patients who come from different cultures.
Encourage hiring a staff that represents your diversity.
Your staff should represent your diversity, Whatley-León said. “If you want people to feel like they belong, you hire people who represent the diverse population,” she said.
Humility is important, and in fact, the term “cultural humility” is now sometimes used instead of cultural competency, said Dr. Helen Baker, global and community engagement coordinator at the Lillian Carter Center for Global Health and Social Responsibility. “It’s going into an encounter with somebody and being really humble,” she said, and acknowledging that you don’t know everything.
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“Come in with a blank slate, not making any assumptions,” Baker suggested. A single patient can represent several different cultures, and health care providers need to find out what’s important to them. Ask about everything from spiritual and cultural practices to teas they may be using to combat certain symptoms, she added.
Language is key to accessing a culture, so it's best if you can speak a patient's language or find a translator to assist you, minoritynurse.com said. This may not always be possible, so using pictures, gestures, and written summaries can also help bridge the language barrier.