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Tips for Providing Culturally Competent Care

 

Don't stereotype people Remember that information you have about cultural traditions is a starting point for understanding another individual. There are many influences (age, socioeconomic status, education, etc.) on an individual's cultural beliefs. Find out first if the individual fits the generalization - there is always individual variation within a group.
Ask the patient what they think caused their illness Not every patient thinks that a "germ" or "virus" caused their disease. Individuals may attribute a variety of etiologies to their illness, including stress, spiritual forces, bodily imbalance.
Respect the patient's beliefs, however "strange" they may appear to you Often patients are afraid to tell a health care provider what home treatments they may be using or other practitioners they may be seeing because of ridicule they have experienced in the past. Learning about what steps other than consulting you the patient is engaged in will help you provide better care for the patient. Most diseases are self-limiting and folk treatments appear "to work" for this reason. If in the patient's family/culture a particular action has generally resulted in the illness symptoms abating, then it is logical and rational to the patient to engage in that particular action. Remember peptic ulcers were treated by antacids and surgery in allopathic medicine until recently.
When possible, incorporate into your treatment plan the patient's beliefs about treatment and prevention that are not contraindicated Patients will likely go ahead and use their own treatments anyway, but if you incorporate their beliefs into the treatment plan, they are more likely to follow your treatment plan as well. When a belief is contraindicated, explain in a respectful manner why this is for the patient's particular illness.
Don't neglect the patient's family In many cultures, important decisions are made by the family, not simply the individual. Involving the family in decision-making processes and treatment plan will help to gain the patient's compliance with treatment. Additionally, allow as many visitors as the patient would like to have. And remember, in some cultures, the husband or another male relative may make the final decision regarding the healthcare of the wife, other females and children.
Respect and do not discount a patient's concern about supernatural influences on his/her health and well being If a patient believes that a supernatural influence is causing his or her condition, do not minimize the patient's concerns. Your minimization will not change the patient's beliefs. The patient may not take any responsibility to follow through with your treatment because he/she may believe that your treatment will not address the supernatural cause. Listen respectfully to the patients concern and when possible, involve an appropriate spiritual healer/advisor in the patient's care.
Learn about the beliefs and practices of the patient populations in your community Learning about general beliefs and practices will help you better understand your patients' attitudes and behaviors. You may also use this knowledge to discreetly question a patient to learn more about their own individual practices by saying something like, "Many of my patients here in the community from [name of country] believe [or do or visit]….Do you?
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