Importance of Cultural Sensitivity in Therapeutic Transactions: Considerations for Healthcare Providers
Culture influences all spheres of human life. It defines health, illness, and the search for relief from disease or distress. With increased mobilization of people across geographical and national borders, multicultural trends are emerging in many countries. This is reflected in the cultural diversity presenting to clinicians in their daily practice. With these presentations, patients bring their own world views, expectations, norms and taboos to the clinical transaction. Cross-cultural transactions occur when two or more of the participants are culturally different. Although it is impossible to be conversant with all cultures, clinicians should be sensitive to the role culture plays in their practice without stereotyping patients. Culture influences help-seeking or care pathways, and may bias the process of assessment and choice of management. The interplay of patient culture, clinical setting and clinician culture can pose significant challenges experienced against a backdrop of other factors such as age, gender, religion, and acculturation. Language, even when shared, does not ensure skillful clinician-patient communications as there are different culture codes for interpersonal relationships, disclosure, privacy, and non-verbal communication. Linguistic difficulties can be partially overcome with the use of an interpreter, a triangular relationship with its own dynamics requiring skill and sensitivity. The cultural matching of patient and therapist is complex and may be complicated by the emergence of other differences that may be equally challenging. However, awareness of this should serve to reduce the number of differences. Cultural sensitivity in patient care is associated with a number of positive health outcomes, including improved patient satisfaction.
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