cultural competency

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6. Recognizing Limits ofYour Competence

According to Leininger, having prior knowledge and experience with interactionwith different cultures is not sufficient when taking care of clients from different cultures.

Reflective experience needs to be grounded in ethnographically derived holding knowledge, not just on hunches andpersonal generalizations. The caregiver has the ethical obligation to seek research-based knowledge, training, and education in the care ofclients ofwhich she is not familiar (2).

Caregivers should base their practice on evidence or research-based knowledge in order to prevent stereotyping and generalizations.

“All Arab-Americans are Muslims” is a generalization that is not based onfact.

“Mono is a disease of college students” is a generalization based on the fact that the highest rate of the disease occur among college students,but to say that only college students get mononucleosis is inaccurate.

Having personal experience as a member of an ethnic group does not confer expertise on the person without theoretical and research-based background to validate their knowledge.

Expertise in one cultural group does not confer expertise on another group. Having knowledge and experience in working with Hispanic patients does not qualify one to work competently with Haitian patients.

The professional nurses should seek additional education, training and supervision when taking care of clients from unfamiliar cultures. To practicewithout background knowledge is unprofessional, unsafe, and unethical(2).

Cultural competency is a continuous process of life-long learning and desire(3).It is not accomplished with a one-time session in cultural diversity. It is not accomplished by cultural awareness and cultural knowledge without thedesire for face-to-face encounters with others who are culturally different.

Our goal is not attaining merely “cultural competence”. The task ofself-awareness is not just putting aside and controlling one’s own cultural background from influencing the client-caregiver relationship.

It is a process where the caregiver is cognizant of how their self contributes to th eexperience of themselves and their client, and a process in which the caregiver and the client are enriched by including each other’s worldviews in the interaction. It is a site for negotiation and co-creation of new meanings and relationships (20).

"Cultural competence begins with an honest desire not to allow biases to keep us from treating every individual with respect. It requires an honest assessment of our positive and negative assumptions about others.

"This is not easy - no one wants to admit that they suffer from cultural ignorance,or in the worst case, harbor negative stereotypes and prejudices. Learning to evaluate our own level of cultural competency must be part of our ongoing effort to provide better health care." National Health Care for theHomeless Council:

Exercise 7:

How culturally prepared are you to take care ofthe following clients?

  • Amarried lesbian couple wanting to adopt a child
  • A40-year old Caucasian male with AIDS
  • Homelessfamily
  • Elderlyfarmer from Nebraska
  • A50-year old diabetic in prison
  • Native American elder
  • A Mexican folk-healer
  • AWiccanbeliever

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