Cultural and Religious Consideration to Competent Healthcare


Brooks, Ashton

The Joint Commission accredits and certifies health care organizations and programs in the United States. The Joint Commission requires culturally competent care as essential to the safest, highest quality, best-value health care. At Novant Health a Cultural and religious considerations: A guide to patient care and religious videos were developed to assist healthcare professionals in providing quality healthcare that is sensitive to each patient’s values. These values are shaped by the patient’s particular cultural and religious background.

The information in the Novant Health guide does not provide the blueprint for the characteristics of any individual patient. The guide emphasizes the importance of respectfully asking the patient for information that will allow providers to practice care that is central to and conducive to the patient’s personal belief system.

Mae Brooks, Novant Health’s Director, Workforce Diversity notes:

“At Novant Health, the guide and religious videos have been added as references to the new employee and new leader diversity and inclusion training. It is important for new leaders and employees to embrace the spirit of the platinum rule–treating patients, family members and communities as they wish to be treated–treating them with dignity and respect for their beliefs and cultures.”

Dr. Deborah Ashton, Novant Health’s Vice President, Chief Diversity Officer states:

“Our healthcare professionals have access to the guide on Novant Health’s intranet, along with access to just in time videos by religious leaders. The religious videos address the tenets of various faiths from Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, and several denominations of Protestantism. The guide and the videos provide insight into cultural and religious mores concerning healthcare, beginning of life, end of life, personal space, modesty and other concerns of the communities we serve.

The guide provides a brief history of various racial and ethnic groups in the United States, along with tips on how providers can examine their own professional and personal beliefs to relate to culturally diverse patients. The guide advises healthcare professionals that everyone has unconscious biases and how to utilize a mindful pause when aware of cultural or religious differences. In order to be aware of cultural differences, professionals have to be aware of their own cultural and religious beliefs–know thyself. These cultural differences may affect conversational style and pacing, eye contact, personal space, touch, and time orientation.”

Sample Tips:

Many individuals, as well as cultural and religious groups, combine Western medicine with more traditional healing methods. These healing methods could include herbal treatments, eating certain foods, use of balms or religious objects, and the inclusion of religious leaders.

Explanation of medical terms and processes in simple, patient-friendly and respectful language.

Use of an interpreter or language services, when appropriate.

Many Irish-, Italian- and Polish-Americans are Catholic. If a patient is critical or near death, they may request a priest to perform the sacrament of the anointing of the sick.

Use a mindful pause

Biases can make something that is really false appear true.

Open your mind to examining an assumption.

Before acting, have a mindful pause.

Examine your thought processes consciously and continuously.

When the patient is culturally different, stop and check assumptions.

Pay attention to non-verbal cues some Southeast Asians may respond “yes” to a question as a way of being polite and avoiding conflict, even when they do not understand the question being asked. Become acquainted with and aware of non-verbal cues such as body language. “Yes” or a nod may mean acknowledgment, but not agreement. (This is a good time to take a mindful pause and tactfully elicit a statement of agreement or disagreement rather than a nod or a simple “yes” from the patient or family member.)

Black Americans differentiate between arguments used to debate a difference of opinion and one that is ventilating anger and hostility. (This differentiation is many times missed by European-Americans, who assume the debate is ventilating anger and hostility. This is a good time to take a mindful pause and provide facts and address concerns for what may be banter or a devil’s advocate position on the part of the patient or family member.)

According to Dr. Ashton, “Both the guide and the religious videos provide a starting point for delivering a remarkable patient experience. Ultimately, to providethe remarkable experience our healthcare professionals must develop an authentic personal relationship with those we serve by asking the patient and theirfamily members how best we can serve their needs.Practicing the platinum rule enhances the remarkable patient experience.”

CLICK HERE for videos from DiversityInc’s Culturally Competent Healthcare event.

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