The Impact of Managing Cultural Diversity in Healthcare

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  • Introduction: The Impact of Managing Cultural Diversity in Healthcare

    Modern day healthcare approach warrants the need for healthcare employees to be aware of cultural and linguistic differences in fellow workers and patients.

    With many countries seeing an increase in the influx and migration of international healthcare graduates, it is pertinent that the cultural differences may be evident not only when healthcare professionals address patients, but vice versa too.

    Hence cultural competence is an important aspect of today’s healthcare delivery. 

    Culture is nothing but the beliefs, customs and ways of behaviors that are inherited aspects of a person arising from a particular socioeconomic or geographic zone. There are various aspects to culture within a healthcare organization. Cultural awareness plays a role in effective communication and affects the quality of service delivery.

    Communication challenges could pose a risk to quality, especially in cases where the social and cultural differences are not understood or appreciated by the persons involved. Anxiety on behalf of the healthcare professional in dealing with a patient or fellow worker who speaks a different language could play a negative role in their preparedness for future cultural interactions as well.

    Further, this could lead to stereotyping and negative attitudes within the organization. Not only should healthcare workers be aware of their own culture and beliefs, but they should ensure that they understand the culture and beliefs of the person they are addressing. This would enable the better address of the patient healthcare needs thereby playing a major role in the delivered quality of service.

    A health professional is required to follow a culturally safe and sensitive practice by respecting the cultural needs of patients. Certain cultures could also have a strong influence based on the social, religious and economic factors that prevail in a region.

    Modern day healthcare training should involve:

    1. Sensitivity training towards various cultural and religious practices
    2. Training healthcare staff regarding safe practices to follow as part of cultural and ethical training. 
    3. Availability of professional language interpreters and translators within healthcare organizations
    4. Language and communication training for clinical and paramedical personnel who belong to international communities.
    5. Cultural assessments as part of periodic training for doctors and nursing staff.
    6. Acceptance and support from the senior management to promote cultural diversity amongst staff and customers. 

    Finally, policymakers should have a shared concept of their own values and priorities, and have a clear understanding of the role that culture definitions play in the field of healthcare delivery.

    Negligence on part of healthcare organizations to address cultural aspects of care could lead to poor outcomes in populations and lead to a general feeling of distrust in the organization in question. Our health experiences and sense of wellbeing are very highly influenced by our cultural contexts from which we derive meaning for various aspects.

    Sharing of information on culturally and ethically good practices amongst healthcare professionals could pave a good way to encourage a safe and culturally meaningful experience for patients as well as for hospital staff. 

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