Culturally Competent Care Argumentative Essay Example
Type of paper: Argumentative Essay
Topic: Health, Nursing, Culture, Patient, Health Care, Medicine, Skills, Quality
In the health care sector, cultural competence generally refers to the ability that systems have to give care to patients who have a variety of values and behaviors, as well as beliefs (French, 2003). This is inclusive of the tailoring of delivery in order to comply with patients’ diverse needs, which span a range of aspects including the social, linguistic and the cultural aspects. Culture has an effect on clinical care in terms of the processes and outcomes of care, as well as the quality and the overall satisfaction of patients. It is no secret that health disparities exist among various Canadian populations, particularly ethnic minorities. It is quite evident that Canada is becoming an increasingly diverse nation in terms of race and ethnicity. Culturally competent care is the evolutionary response of healthcare to this diversity (Flores, Culture and the patient-physician relationship: Achieving cultural competency in health care, 2000). Through culturally competent healthcare, it is possible to improve the quality of care and thus patient health. This paper argues that cultural care competence has a positive effect on the health of patients.
In order to fully understand how cultural competence can positively influence the health of patients, it is imperative that we understand the general factors that affect patient health and lead to the racial and ethnic health care disparities. The first of these factors is an absence of diversity in both health care workforce and leadership (Flores, Culture and the patient-physician relationship: Achieving cultural competency in health care, 2000). Whereas minorities comprise an increasingly large proportion of the Canadian population, they are still underrepresented in the management of healthcare. This causes concern since a person from the minority group is more likely to be sensitive to the needs of minority populations. That is, such a person will organize the health care system in such a way that it caters for minority needs. A similar situation exists in the workforce of health care systems. This is in spite of the fact that when racial concordance exists between a doctor and his patient, there is a higher likelihood of the patient being satisfied since the doctor understands the patient’s culture. This understanding will lead to a positive improvement on the patient’s health (Ngo-Metzger, et al., 2006).
The other factor is systems of care that are poorly designed for the variety of populations from which patients are drawn. Systems are sometimes so complex and so poorly built that it is impossible for them to respond to various needs resulting from the diversity in populations of patients. One issue that is of primary importance here is that of patient and provider language discordance. When a system lacks an interpreter, or another effective and appropriate means of health education, and is hence not culturally competent, patient dissatisfaction may be a resultant outcome (Flores, The Impact of Medical Interpreter Services on the Quality of Health Care: A Systematic Review, 2005). There may also be poor comprehension as well as adherence. All this would culminate in the quality of care being poor. Another aspect is that of the cross-cultural communication between the providers of the health care and their patients. Health care providers may fail to fully comprehend the sociocultural disparities that exist between them and their patients. Hence, a result of this would be dissatisfaction among the patients as well as a lack of adherence to the medications. Strategies geared at health promotion may also suffer which in turn leads to a poorer outcome in terms of health. Providers who fail to consider the social cultural factors also end up applying stereotypes, which have an impact on their behavior, as well as on their decision making from a clinical perspective (Flores, The Impact of Medical Interpreter Services on the Quality of Health Care: A Systematic Review, 2005).
The use of culturally competent care would thus go a long way in the elimination of these disparities, and hence in positively influencing the health of patients. It is possible to illustrate this in various ways. The first way in which culturally competent healthcare can positively influence patients’ health is in terms of language problems. Language is among the key components of culture. Language barriers between patients and physicians limit the access of patients to health care and their use of health services as well as the health outcomes (French, 2003). This occurs through the effect of language barrier on health literacy, which refers to the ability of individuals to understand basic health information, which aids them in making health decisions appropriately. The language barrier may severely limit patients in terms of their understanding of prescriptions and filling of medical forms. When the patients are unable to comprehend the instructions, they cannot follow them. Hence, patients’ health is affected. Doctors and nurses who are culturally competent recognize this language barrier and where they cannot speak the patient’s language fluently, they advocate for the use of interpreters, as well as use of audio-visual techniques such as short videos to demonstrate to patients the instructions (Flores, Culture and the patient-physician relationship: Achieving cultural competency in health care, 2000). This helps the patient and the doctors to understand each other hence the doctor can provide better care to the patient.
Yet another aspect of culturally competent care is the understanding of folk illnesses and their effect on patients’ health. Folk illnesses refer to diagnostic categories that are culturally constructed and are recognized by a particular ethnic group. These diagnoses are often in conflict with the medical diagnoses (Cohen & Palos, 2001). The level of prevalence of these diseases varies based on ethnicity, region, and the acculturation levels. For instance, some folk illnesses that exist among Hispanic communities include Empacho, which is a condition that is believed to result from dietary indiscretions and causes food to stick to the intestinal walls and cause obstruction. Some of its symptoms include bloating, vomiting as well as diarrhea. These symptoms mirror those of some medical conditions like gastroenteritis and appendicitis (Flores, Culture and the patient-physician relationship: Achieving cultural competency in health care, 2000). The affected victims usually consult folk healers who treat using methods such as massages. However, in some cases, the patients later on seek conventional medical help. The sensitivity of response to these beliefs is crucial to patient satisfaction with care and continuity of this care. A judgmental response may cause the patient to terminate the future clinical responses. It is imperative that a clinician is aware of the existence of these folk illnesses since their symptoms often overlap with those of serious medical conditions. In this way, he or she can convince the patient of the importance of seeking conventional care as opposed to the folk remedy and can suggest alternatives to these remedies, some of which may be harmful. Through this, proper diagnosis, and hence possible prevention of these conditions can be guaranteed which leads to an improvement in patient care.
However, cultural care competence on its own cannot have a positive effect on patients’ health. This is especially true in relation to racial and ethnic minorities. For example, even if the nurses and doctors understand the patient’s culture, a positive effect on health may fail to result in the case of minorities. Minorities are less likely to have health insurance, which means that they have more problems in accessing the necessary medical care. This also limits the choices that they have in as far as access to sources of care is concerned. This in turn affects the health of patients in a far greater way than the absence of cultural competence. Hence, in order for the cultural care competence to be effective in improving patient health, other factors must be in existence. It can thus be argued that it is these factors, and not cultural care competence that improve patient health.
Hence, it is evident that culture has an effect on clinical care. Culture has an effect on the outcome, quality and the satisfaction of this healthcare (Wykle & Ford, 1999). Therefore, healthcare must aim to be culturally competent especially in terms of encounters between the patient and the healthcare provider. This cultural competency relates to the recognition of the primary features of culture as well as the appropriateness of response to the cultural features that have an impact on clinical care. The consideration of a patient’s cultural as well as linguistic issues leads to proper communication, and this helps to curb problems of misdiagnosis, as well as non-adherence to prescriptions. It also promotes trust between the providers and the patients. Recognition of norms and other elements of culture such as folk illnesses are also key to healthcare. This is because the failure to recognize these norms may lead to the occurrence of adverse medical conditions. Through recognition of the existence of these norms, culturally competent healthcare professionals are able to avert such problems. Hence, the argument that culturally competent healthcare has a directly positive impact on patient health in Canada is an irrefutable one. Thus, promotion and adoption of this brand of care must continue to happen.
Cohen, M. Z., & Palos, G. (2001). Culturally Competent Care. Seminars in Oncology Nursing, 17(3), 153 - 158.
Flores, G. (2000). Culture and the patient-physician relationship: Achieving cultural competency in health care. The Journal of Pediatrics, 14-22.
Flores, G. (2005). The Impact of Medical Interpreter Services on the Quality of Health Care: A Systematic Review. Medical Care Research and Review, 255-299.
French, B. M. (2003). Culturally Competent Care. Journal of Infusion Nursing, 252-255.
Ngo-Metzger, Q., Telfair, J., Sorkin, D. H., Weidmer, B. A., Weech-Maldonado, R., Hurtado, M., et al. (2006). Cultural Competency and Quality of Care: Obtaining the Patient's Perspective. The Commonwealth Fund.
Wykle, M. L., & Ford, A. B. (1999). Serving minority elders in the 21st century. New York, NY : Springer Pub.