The Importance of Cultural Competence in Delivering Health Care Services
In today’s society,diversity that results from multiculturalism and pluralism in religion has become the norm rather than the exception. Patients and practitioners are likely to take up different approaches in their thoughts and actions and this is mainly because of the broad spectrum of culturalcredentials, faiths, socioeconomic position, philosophies and behavior that create a rich multiplicity and cultural density. This means that every patient and every medical technician tends to display unique attributes which originate from their differences in cultural and religious affiliations. It is therefore necessary for each medical technician to develop cultural competence whilst working with patients from diverse cultural backgrounds. This paper seeks to discuss the importance of cultural competence in health care practices.
Cultural considerations are increasingly receiving a lot of attention in diverse medical fields including the mental health arena. This is mainly due to the fact that we exist in an all-inclusive society and a pluralistic society such as ours demands that each health provider develops cultural sensitivity when dealing with patients because their cultural beliefs define the diverse and different perspectives and their expectations. Cultural competence is a set of activities, outlooks and guidelines that follow up a continuum to facilitate the provision of services by a health care system, organization or individual practitioner and ensure successful operations in the transcultural interaction. Practically, cultural competence acknowledges and embraces the essence of philosophy, the valuation of cross-cultural associations, the need of awareness of the undercurrents that may result from cultural dissimilarities, the establishment of cultural understanding and the changes of amenities to meet culturally unique prerequisites.
Ruth Macklin argues that the multicultural and dynamic composition of America can pose great challenges to the medical practitioners and the patients who originate from backgrounds of a multiethnic nature. Even though cultural diversity demands tolerance of the beliefs and practices of others, there are circumstances under which excessive tolerance can cause harm to the patients. There is need to carefully analyze the situation so as to properly determine the values that are culturally relative and meet the set standards of the universal ethical principle. The concept of justice in relation to equality challenges states that it is always important to respect everyone regardless of their beliefs and practices. Macklin however points out that certain cultural practices such as female circumcision are harmful to the women within the cultural group or society in which that practice is embraced and carried out. According to Macklin were such practices to be accepted and practiced by health care providers then they would be perpetrators and supporters of practices that act contrary to the universal practice of human rights.
Ruth Macklin’s position is biased because it discriminates against those cultures that practice acts and rituals that may seem inhumane to other cultures. There must be reasons why such practices as female circumcision are accepted and embraced in the cultures in which they are practiced. Cultural relativism does not mean accepting every other cultural practice; but rather accepting the practices that each community regards as essential in delivering health care services. This also entails the explanation as to why certain practices cannot be made universal yet, every community should feel involved and respected in the process of developing of and implementing a variety of practices that assist in defining what is acceptable to every member of the society. Cultural relativism demands the participation and involvement of important stakeholders from every community in the construction of a united nation through the establishing medical norms and principles that cut across all cultures.
Depending on the point of view of the definition, culture can take a variety of connotations. However, culture can be used to refer to an integrated pattern of learning beliefs and behavior that can be shared amongst a given group of people or community and such traits include communication techniques, modes of interaction, definition of roles and responsibilities assigned to each member of the community, norms, values as well as practices. The United States is one of the multicultural nations with a population that is ethnically and racially diversified. Health care systems and medical practitioners are responsible for reflecting on and responding to the different perspectives, values, beliefs, and behaviors of their patients. Failure to establish a proper comprehension in managing sociocultural differences can cause significant health related effects especially for the minority groups. There are a number of factors that can causevariations within the health care systems for the diverse cultural and ethnic groups in the American society. Sociocultural differences among the patients and the medical practitioners including the health care system are the potential causes of any alterations. Such disparities may play a pertinent role in influencing the decision-making and interaction between the health care delivery system through the medical practitioners and the patients. Cultural variations can influence the patient’s ability to identify the symptoms of a disease and type of illness as well as their decision seek medical assistance and this also informs the choice of a particular health care system based on their racial and ethnic bias.
The best way to address multiculturalism in the health care system is to develop or establish the field of cultural competence. This will empower both practitioners and patients hence enabling them to sufficiently and logically deal with health care disparities that arise from racial and ethnic factors. Cultural competence within the health care system will be instrumental in the comprehension of the capacity of the system to deliver proper care to the patients who come from different value and belief structures. This will entail the recognition of the presence of diverse cultures and customizing the service delivery to meet the sociocultural and linguistic needs of every patient. The ultimate objective is to develop a health care system and team of practitioners who can deliver the best quality of care and service to every member of the society irrespective of their racial, ethnic linguistic or cultural orientation.
The fact that cultural competence is vital in eliminating differences in the health care system cannot be overemphasized. Nevertheless there is need to incorporate every stakeholder within the society in the process of developing and implementing the whole field of cultural competence. This would be done by developing policies that can foster and drive the nature of competence within the entire society. In addition, there is need to establish proper structures that can clearly define the responsibilities of administration in the process of establishing culturally competent health care systems. There is also need for academicians to incorporate components of cultural competence within their curriculum and study modules. This will ensure that potential medical practitioners are professionally trained and well informed on matters that relate to multiculturalism within the field of health. The existing health care providers ought to embrace multiculturalism by carrying out reviews of the existing definitions of cultural competence and identifying the benefits of the concept to the health care system. Within the existing definition, they also have to identify the correct models that can help to facilitate provision of culturally competent care. Finally, there is need for identification of the essential components of cultural competence and development of recommendations for suitable intercessions.
Cultural competence in the delivery of health care in a multicultural setting differs from the position of Ruth Macklin on multiculturalism. According to Macklin, cultural relativism would lead to the introduction of inhumane cultural practices being embraced within the general society. This argument is not only inappropriate but also discriminatory in nature because in a way it encourages the plan of acculturation which ultimately involves the embracing the cultural traits of the conventional culture. Within the American social setting, acculturation would entail incorporating the white Anglo Saxon Protestant culture leaving out the African American and the Mexican cultures in the process. Macklin therefore lacks the correct principle of determining what should be tolerated and what should not because embracing a universal culture would embrace a particular popular culture at the expense of other cultural traits which are just as important. Cultural competence encourages establishing an understanding and respect for all the existing cultures in the society as a means of fostering peaceful coexistence.
Each society tends to have multiculturalism and domination of many religious practices hence there is a need for all the cultural groups to feel recognized and respected by other members from different cultural and religious groups. This is critical in advancing peaceful cohabitation within the society. Ruth Macklin’s argument against cultural relativism is therefore misplaced because it encourages the acceptance of universal way of practicing various activities within the health care system and they are founded on her argument on minimizing the chances of embracing inhumane cultural and religious practices. Developing and implementing cultural competence within the health care system is the only means through which the society can ensure that the interests of every member of the society are taken into consideration in the delivery of health care services so as to minimize ethnic, racial and religious bias and foster peaceful coexistence in teh process.