By Shubhranshu Dutta and Aliza Lopez, 2022 Governor's STEM Scholars
What happens in an emergency when English is a foreign language for you? In an urgent medical situation, you’re met with the feeling of being misunderstood, despite attempts to voice your concerns. Your words are clearly articulated — but only to an individual who can understand your language. While seeking treatment, any possibility of receiving proper care is drowned out by your provider’s inability to understand you.
In the U.S., where one-fifth of the population is not a native-English speaker, this is a common occurrence. In the health care setting, how can quality treatment be given if it cannot be understood by his or her doctor? And language is just one example of a cultural challenge in health care.
Requiring cultural competence instruction in health care professional training is important to ensure equitable and personalized approaches to treatment for high patient outcomes and quality health care for all.
Cultural competence training for health care professionals provides skills that value diversity, responds to cultural differences, and increases awareness to cultural norms. From a practical perspective it teaches how race, socioeconomic status, health literacy, and other factors influence how patients perceive symptoms, how they seek care, how willing they will be to treatment plans, and more.
A patient’s ability to communicate with his or her doctor is important for individualized treatment, as they can attest to their state of health best. Though diagnoses can sometimes be made through physical examinations, it is not always sufficient. Speaking to, connecting with, and recognizing the patient’s personal background can be an important part of the patient’s health care diagnosis. Ad