News For This Month: Resources

The Importance of diversity and cultural competency

By definition cultural competency is an acquired ability to comprehend, appreciate, and interact with people having other cultural and belief systems that vary from one’s culture. Cultural competency improves the effectiveness of service provisions like in healthcare and it protects healthcare professionals from potential malpractice and liability claims.

Due to the complex nature of the term cultural competency then there are many myths that surround the term. It is vital to state that one of the myths is that it is impossible to learn what one needs to know about the different cultures since they are so many. The context of cultural competency is not meant for the person to learn the characteristics of every culture. Infact cultural competency involves four steps with one of the steps being the ability to recognize the pre-existing own beliefs about culture and learning how these beliefs of one’s culture influence the creation of beliefs regarding other cultures. The next step is learning to focus on the information provided by individuals within the present context and choosing to avoid labelling or classifying people using their cultural names. It is vital to know that this makes cultural competence achievable, prevents fixed and blanket-effect, and wrong cultural information.

The other myth is to assume that the user has fully mastered all the steps in cultural competency in any context. The truth is that cultural competency is not a one-time event but is a lifelong process that is repeatedly used in every interaction. The truth is that the process needs to be reapplied all through one’s career and must be re-evaluated periodically by the organization.

Another wrong assumption is that the person’s culture, ethnicity, gender or even disability has taught them to be culturally competent. The ugly truth is that no matter how culturally accommodative a culture is to another, the culture retains some beliefs and preconceptions about foreign cultures or diversity dimensions. It is important to highlight that every person even the person outside the dominant culture must be intentional about analytically processing to examine cultural misinformation and strive to reach cultural competence in each case.

The other myth is that cultural competency is naturally learnt in an organization that has diverse cultures. Organizations are a small sub-unit of society, and it would be a wrong assumption to state that the cultural cohesion that exists among employees is a reflection of the society. Another fact to remember is that for organizations that are more diverse then the number of conflicts due to the difference in opinions has been noted to be higher because of the lack of awareness and understanding of the cultural diversity of the employees. An incredible fact to note is that being diverse is just the first step but over and above that employees need to take action to be culturally competent.