What it means to be healthy differs among cultures. It’s not just about the absence of disease; it’s the feeling of overall well-being. Cultural competence means an organization is able to function within the context of cultural beliefs, behaviors, and needs. It is imperative that healthcare workers always consider this when treating patients. Everyone is different. That means their bodies are, too. It does not work to have one universal treatment plan. By being aware of a person’s values, individuals can receive care personalized to them: which means the patient is more likely to go through with treatment and will have a better physician-patient relationship.
A Jehovah’s witness cannot accept a blood transfusion due to how that person interprets the bible. As a result, it is up to a doctor to think outside the box, communicate with the patient, and come up with a treatment plan that will help the health the patient while staying within the person’s own beliefs. Since this is a poignant issue, UPMC even decided to start a bloodless campaign to consider these patient’s needs. After taking the time to communicate with people of this belief, UPMC actually felt more empathetic toward them and wanted to help. This proves that communication is key.
When interacting with patients it is important to remember key heath communication concepts. A patient cannot be treated correctly if a physician does not communicate with him or her and understand what his or her needs are. In the beginning of an appointment, it could be helpful if physicians went through a quick checklist of questions to begin to understand the patient in front of them. By utilizing a checklist and showing care, the patient in return will begin to trust the physician and open up to him or her.
- Provide translators
- Research beliefs
- Initiate cultural health campaigns
- Provide cross-cultural training
- Shared decision making among family members
- Reach out to community health workers
- Patient surveys to measure health literacy
- Programs for patients on learning about the health system
- Hire and promote minority workers
Remember: your set of beliefs are not the same as everyone’s set of beliefs. Take a step back, clear your mind, and be empathetic toward the patient. Take the time to research what the patient believes and understand what that patient’s personalized treatment options should look like. This will build the patient’s trust and will provide more personalized care which means more successful survival rates.