Cultural Competency in Health Sciences


Globalization has influenced a number of changes in the way the delivery of healthcare services is done. This phenomenon has been necessitated by the increasing level of diversity inpatient needs with regard to their values, beliefs, behaviors. This element led to the emergence of a new concept in health sciences known as cultural competency. Developed and first used in the United States in the 1980s, cultural competency has changed the manner in which healthcare practitioners interact with their patients in a bid to improve the effectiveness of their services and achieve better patient experiences (Bacote, 2012).

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The major challenge that cultural competency seeks to address is health disparities. Healthcare professionals in the contemporary world are expected to deliver quality care regardless of the patients’ ethnicity, age, cultural background, level of education, race, as well as religious or cultural values. Training employees working in the fields of health sciences such as public health and nursing about cultural competency is crucial to the realization of good patient outcomes (Taylor, Foley, & Shea, 2016). Healthcare organizations have the responsibility of ensuring that their employees are culturally competent in order to treat patients from different backgrounds in an effective manner.

Interventions for healthcare organizations in ensuring a culturally competent workforce

Cultural competence in healthcare is a broad concept that entails a combination of numerous measures geared towards using a patient-oriented healthcare delivery system. Over the years, the concept has experienced numerous extensions focusing on improving the capacity of healthcare organizations to meet the healthcare needs of different cultural groups (Bacote, 2012). Although the concept has been the subject of numerous studies over the last several decades, a deficiency in establishing the most effective strategies or interventions that healthcare organizations can use to ensure their workforce is culturally competent has been noticeable. Healthcare providers can apply five crucial strategies to create a culturally competent workforce.

Training of employees

One of the most effective interventions that healthcare organizations can use is educating their health professionals about the concept of cultural competency. Depending on the resource capacity of an organization, the training can be done in collaboration with accredited learning institutions to offer the training. For others, interactive learning through case studies, as well as experiential learning through field trips can be alternative methods of training their employees about culturally competent care services (Clifford, McCalman & Bainbridge, 2015).

The training often varies in terms of the time taken by the learners depending on various factors. In most cases, the training can involve a one or two day workshop that can be followed by field trips to workplaces that have already started implementing the concept. Some of the things that healthcare professionals can be trained about include the importance of understanding the educational level, cultural background, and religious believes of a patient (Hughes & Hood, 2013).

Community service

Healthcare organizations can create a program where their employees can participate in community service as a way of learning the various needs of the people they serve. Although many critics argue that this strategy has a very low degree of success, the manner in which the programs center their focus on healthcare issues determines the willingness of the community to be involved (Taylor et al., 2016).

A good example of a service to the community that can help healthcare professionals to understand the healthcare needs of their patients is conducting a free medical camp. This encourages more people to come out for screening and free checkups, thus helping in developing statistics on the prevalent healthcare problems. The information gathered from such exercises helps the healthcare organizations in developing delivery programs with a specific orientation towards the identified issues (Downing & Kowal, 2011).

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Creating culturally specific healthcare programs

Healthcare organizations can design their programs in a manner that allows switching between different cultural needs. The culturally sensitive programs are often developed in consideration of the various categories of patients that a healthcare organization receives over time (Clifford et al., 2015). For example, a healthcare provider can choose to use a delivery program that provides healthcare services to alcoholics and mental patients at the same time.

This means that the two categories of patients can receive quality healthcare using one program without feeling disoriented. Such programs often lead to heightened patient satisfaction because they feel important whenever they are given the right treatment (Hughes & Hood, 2013). Another example is healthcare facilities that offer treatment to children. Most of them have a designated playing area aimed at meeting the needs of that group.

Hiring an indigenous workforce

Some healthcare organizations work in indigenously diverse areas. In such cases, hiring people from another region can be counterproductive because they might struggle to understand the culture of the people and the way its values influence their perception of healthcare. Therefore, such an organization can ensure its workforce is culturally competent by hiring employees that have lived in that region and interacted with all the different cultures for some time (Hughes & Hood, 2013).

This plays a crucial role in eliminating challenges such as language barriers in situations where the patient only knows his or her indigenous language. Psychologists argue that patients have a higher chance of achieving satisfaction with the healthcare services given to them if their practitioner is from his or her indigenous community. The psychological satisfaction that the person giving out the treatment understands them is crucial to achieving good patient outcomes (Taylor et al., 2016).

Paradigm shift

Healthcare experts believe that a paradigm shift is an effective intervention strategy that healthcare organizations can use to make their workforce culturally competent. This strategy involves encouraging healthcare professionals to make healthcare decisions from the patient’s viewpoint (Downing & Kowal, 2011). Over the years, decisions regarding the kind of treatment plan used were mainly done by the physicians. However, integrating the concept of paradigm shift will allow the patient to be more involved in making decisions regarding their preferred care plan and the management of his or her medical records. This strategy makes it easy for healthcare practitioners because all patients will be satisfied with the treatment they receive (Downing & Kowal, 2011).


Cultural competency is one of the most important qualifications for professionals working in the contemporary healthcare system. The global healthcare delivery system is slowly shifting to a more patient-oriented program that guarantees one enough freedom to choose their preferred treatment plan. Healthcare organizations also have an important role to play in terms of ensuring that they have culturally competent employees. In order to achieve this feat, the organizations can apply several intervention strategies that include paradigm shift, training the employees, developing culturally specific programs, participating in community service, and hiring an indigenous workforce among others.


Bacote, J.C. (2012). The process of cultural competence in the delivery of healthcare services: A model of care. Journal of Trans Cultural Nursing, 12(5), 34-52.

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Clifford, A., McCalman, J., & Bainbridge, R. (2015). Interventions to improve cultural competency in healthcare for indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA. International Journal for Quality in Healthcare, 27(2), 89-98.

Downing, R., & Kowal, E. (2011). Indigenous cultural training for health workers in Australia. International Journal for Quality Healthcare, 23: 247-257.

Hughes, K.H., & Hood, L.J. (2013). Teaching methods and an outcome tool for measuring cultural sensitivity in undergraduate nursing students. Journal of Trans Cultural Nursing, 18(1)62.

Taylor, G., Foley, L., & Shea, S. (2016). Developing tools to promote culturally competent compassion, courage, and intercultural communication in healthcare. Journal of Compassionate Healthcare, 3(2): 3-15.

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