In today’s increasingly globalized world, more and more healthcare professionals from around the globe are finding that their interactions with foreign nationals and those from culturally diverse backgrounds has dramatically increased over the last several years. Though this presents healthcare workers with the wonderful opportunity for multiple cross-cultural interactions, the lack of cultural competence in healthcare can also lead to some serious complications and lack of proper communication with multicultural patients.
Though the issues that occur due to lack of cultural competence in healthcare are many, the three listed below are those that most healthcare workers experience on a daily basis when serving multicultural patients.
1. Lack of diagnostic understanding. There can be a variety of reasons that patients are unable to comprehend the diagnosis made by healthcare staff. The most obvious reason is the existence of a language barrier. However, this problem is becoming somewhat less frequent as hospitals and clinics begin to understand the need for cultural competence in healthcare and employ multilingual staff. Another factor impacting diagnostic understanding is the educational level of the patient. Patients who were unable to receive adequate education in their home countries or cultures are often put at a severe disadvantage when diagnoses are explained to them.
2. Failure to follow home care instructions. The problem that a lack of diagnostic understanding causes often continues when patients return home with self-care instructions. They may not fully understand what healthcare staff have instructed them to do or they may simply not find self-care to be a priority. This lack of cultural competence in healthcare can have deadly consequences when medications are not administered or administered inappropriately, follow up appointments are not scheduled, and proper protocols are not adhered to.
3. Conflicting foundational beliefs. Oftentimes, the diagnosis made by healthcare staff is in direct conflict with the religious or cultural beliefs of the patient. An example of this would be a diagnosis of epilepsy being viewed by the patient as ancestral gods taking over one’s body. This may sounds like an extreme case, but instances such as these are ones experienced more often than not by healthcare staff. Cases such as this are oftentimes the most concerning when the diagnosis is made on a child. The child’s parents may try every possible method to expel the “ancestral gods” from the child’s body all the while ignoring the medical directives of the healthcare staff and putting the child at greater risk.
Lack of cultural competence in healthcare can have life-threatening implications. However, with appropriate training and guidance from cultural competency professionals, many of these issues can be both addressed and overcome. Cultural Candor can assist healthcare staff in strengthening cultural competence in healthcare. Contact us today to learn more.