Culture can refer to characteristics such as age, gender, sexual orientation, disability, religion, income level, education, geographical location or profession. Cultural competency can be defined as the ability of providers and organizations to effectively deliver health care services that meet the social, cultural, and linguistic needs of patients. Many people get the term cultural competency confused with Diversity Consciousness, but they are actually not the same. Cultural competency is taking that extra step beyond acknowledging people’s differences and learning about who they are. When an individual is culturally competent they have an understanding of their background, other individuals backgrounds and how to effectively provide the given services needed for all cultures. There are many ways that I could be culturally competent in my future career and there are many ways to get there. To ensure that I am culturally competent in my future career I will do things such as, learn more about myself, learn about different cultures, interact with diverse groups and attend diverse-focused conferences.
Some ways that I would achieve cultural competence in the workplace would be to hire and promote minority health care workers, strengthen any existing programs that may need it, having a system to receive community and patient feedback about their care, make sure all patients have access to healthcare workers that meet their language preferences and do reoccurring research on race/ethnicity and particular aspects. It is very important that healthcare workers are informed about the cultural factors that influence people’s health beliefs and behaviors and they also need to have everything they need to do so. Making sure that the staff is also properly trained and educated on what it means to be culturally competent is also important. In order to be fully culturally competent, I have to be able to release any biases that I may have already formed and moved forward from them.
I grew up in a very small town and there was only one African American boy in the whole school. Upon coming to Northern Kentucky University I have had hardly any prior experience with other cultures and did not know much about them. I can honestly say that coming to NKU definitely broadened my education about other cultures, races, ethnicities and cultural beliefs for the better. I also know that my cultural competence still has a lot of room for growth and education because there is a whole world out there. I have always said that it would be so fascinating to live in someone else’s ‘shoes’ or culture for a few weeks. I can only imagine what you would gain as a person from experiences like that. Through my years at NKU, I have learned more about other races, members of the LGBTQ programs, cultures and ethnicities. I consider myself a very open-minded person, therefore, I do not think that I will have any biases that are hard to get over. I am eager to learn more about other people and how they live their lives.
I plan to keep growing in my cultural competence by putting myself in new situations, exploring, educating and having an open mind. The best way, in my opinion, to be more culturally competent is to put yourself in new situations that you may not be comfortable in. Traveling is a great way to become more culturally competent because you get to be out of your comfort zone, potentially around other languages, experiencing new traditions, customs and beliefs hands on. Education speaks for itself when it comes to being more culturally competent. In order to truly learn more about someone and their beliefs, you have to study them and know them. Learning to have an open mind can get you really far in life as well because it enhances your ability to learn, make relationships and try new experiences. I think everyone can benefit from having an open mind, not only in the culturally competent sense but just in general.
I think that being culturally competent is very important for everyone because it makes you a better person and it can help you substantially in your career. It is important to treat people with respect and by being culturally competent you are ensuring that. Especially in the role of a human services provider, being culturally competent is essential. Your main goal is to help people and get them what they need, but you cannot do that without knowing more about the individual.
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