What is Cultural Competency?
By Jacqueline Voigt, M.S.S.A., manager, Cultural Competency Division, Program for Multicultural Health
It has long been acknowledged that a patient’s health beliefs and communication style play critical roles in health care. In fact, issues of crosscultural communication and variations in health beliefs impact patient and employee satisfaction as well as clinical outcomes. Our country’s demographic landscape is consistently changing, and so is the Health System’s, both in terms of the patients we serve and the people we work with. To retain our roles as a provider and workplace of choice, we must be committed to developing our cross-cultural awareness and skills, and we must always provide culturally competent care and maintain an inclusive work environment.
Cultural competency is effectively providing services to people of all cultures, races,
ethnic backgrounds and religions in a manner that respects the worth of the individual and preserves their dignity. It’s a defined set of values, principles, behaviors, attitudes, policies and structures that enable us to work—and live—successfully in a diverse environment.
Caregivers work more effectively in cross-cultural situations when the system and agency in which they work,
their co-workers, and their own beliefs and behaviors are congruent with integrating and providing culturally competent care. Cultural competency begins with self-awareness and knowledge, and leads to lifelong learning and development. Progress
is cumulative, and periodic assessment is key.
The UMHS Program for Multicultural Health’s Cultural Competency Division offers educational tools and resources to help faculty and staff improve their cultural competency. We want to empower caregivers to provide culturally competent care and we want to enhance patient-to-caregiver and family-to-staff relationships by explaining what cultural competency is, why it is important to our work, how to implement it into the services we provide and how to continually assess progress on this lifelong journey.
To get started on your road to better cultural competence:
- Visit the Cultural Competency Division Web site for self-assessment tools, statistics about our patient population, national news, links to resources such as the Cultural Competency Update, which offers information about UMHS’ cultural competency efforts, and more.
- Schedule a consultation. If you have a particular concern or issue you’d like to address, such as a need to understand a patient better, or you’d like to assess your overall competency and make an education plan, call 734-615-0593 or send an e-mail.