April 14, 2024

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The Importance of Cultural Diversity and Sensitivity in Patient Care

In an evolving world, the understanding of diversity in patient care has never been more important. Many medical professionals are now being educated in cultural diversity and sensitivity in their training so that all sectors of the population can be better served. This cultural awareness among healthcare providers has also helped people of different backgrounds feel more confident about getting the care that they need. 

A greater sensitivity and understanding of other cultures have helped shape the medical field for the better in different ways. 

Fair treatment for all

When healthcare providers are more culturally competent, they can better ensure that each patient receives equal access to quality treatment regardless of their racial and cultural background, income, and other differentiating factors. A greater emphasis on fair treatment can be especially crucial for communities that have historically lacked access to quality medical treatment and may face more social determinants

Fair treatment can improve patient outcomes substantially across many sectors of the population. Equitable treatment has played a major role in helping to reduce hospital readmissions and lengthen patients’ lifespans.

Florence Nightingale, who understood the importance of equality in healthcare, used her nursing skills to develop many methods of modern nursing that are still used to this day. These modern nursing principles have also helped open the door for people who need better medical treatment but may have lacked access because of cultural barriers. Rockhurst University’s nursing programs help instill these principles so that students can provide fair treatment after they graduate and become nurses.

A safer, more welcoming system

Ideally, any healthcare setting is a safe and welcoming place for all, but a lack of cultural awareness among medical professionals can make certain patients feel more alienated and more hesitant about getting treatment.

Cultural sensitivity can be a key component to making patients feel safer and more welcome in hospitals, doctors’ offices, and other medical facilities. Patients are likely to feel less guilt, shame, or fear about discussing sensitive health topics with medical service providers who understand the importance of different cultures. 

Patients who are worried that they might face retaliation for seeking treatment because of cultural differences and other social barriers will also likely feel less fear of retribution if healthcare professionals are trained in cultural awareness. With less fear of retaliation, patients of all cultural backgrounds can have greater confidence when discussing different health topics and notifying their healthcare providers of any errors that might be made in their treatment.

Fewer language barriers

Healthcare providers who are more knowledgeable of cultural diversity and sensitivity can better serve patients who struggle to speak and understand the English language. Medical professionals are now able to provide more resources to patients who require language assistance thanks to advancements in cultural awareness training.

To address language barriers more effectively, many doctors, nurses and other healthcare providers are relying on medical interpreters to bridge communication gaps between patients. These language experts can explain health information to patients in their native language and also relay information that patients want to share with their providers.

Medical professionals who have received training in cultural awareness are also more likely to provide patients with written materials in different languages. By offering patients this literature, healthcare providers can save time and give patients more ways to learn about important health topics.

Finding participants for clinical trials can also be easier if potential candidates who are not fluent in English have access to the right resources. These resources may include a wide variety of written materials in different languages to help potential participants understand what the trials involve so that they can make more informed decisions on whether to enroll.

A greater understanding of disproportionate health conditions among certain communities

Certain medical conditions are known to affect people of specific ethnic and racial backgrounds in greater numbers, and a better understanding of different cultures can help caregivers render the proper diagnoses and treatment. People within these communities may be more susceptible to one or more of these conditions because of genetics, lifestyle habits, or other factors. 

For example, sickle cell anemia is often seen among Black patients at higher rates. Ethnic Ashkenazi Jews are known to be more susceptible to certain cancers, such as breast and ovarian cancer, along with conditions like Crohn’s disease, cystic fibrosis, and Gauche disease. Hepatitis B, tuberculosis, and lupus sometimes occur in greater numbers of people with Asian backgrounds.

Medical professionals who have received the proper diversity training can offer more than just a standard solution so that patients who develop these conditions can receive more comprehensive, personalized care. Culturally competent healthcare providers are also less likely to rule out certain conditions too soon and render inaccurate diagnoses if they understand how these conditions might disproportionately affect certain communities.

An ability to modify treatments

Doctors and nurses sometimes need to try different treatment approaches for patients who have different cultural and religious beliefs regarding healthcare. Certain treatments may be forbidden outright under certain belief systems, while others might need to be altered to adhere to a particular patient’s religious principles.

For example, Jehovah’s Witnesses are prohibited from receiving blood transfusions because of their religious beliefs, and medical professionals often need to explore alternative therapies to ensure that these patients still receive the essential care.

Some religions also require followers to fast at certain times, and this can affect how medical treatment is given. Healthcare providers may need to adjust treatment methods and schedules to avoid complications from certain treatments that may be harmful to people who are fasting.

Every patient deserves access to quality healthcare regardless of their cultural background. When more doctors and nurses receive cultural awareness training, fewer patients are likely to be treated as second-class citizens.