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How to Improve Cultural Competence in Healthcare – 7 Tips

By: Erich TollDiversity Insights
3:000 Comments
How To Improve Cultural Competence In Healthcare

Diversity is a factor in every part of our society and workplace, and its impact is especially pronounced in healthcare due to the universal need for medical services. The concept of cultural competence in healthcare becomes crucial here, as patients come from diverse backgrounds and belief systems. Unlike other sectors where not everyone needs every product or service, everyone needs healthcare, no matter their race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, or faith.

I am grateful to be partnered with a healthcare professional, Kelly, who will tell you that for many healthcare customers, a visit to an urgent care or hospital might be one of the most intense days of their life – or perhaps their last.

Because of this, religion is more likely to come into play. These factors highlight the importance of cultural diversity and cultural competence in healthcare. The industry needs healthcare diversity training in the workplace.

Cultural Competency Training in Healthcare

Diversity awareness training for health professionals has a clear objective: to provide the same standard of care to everyone, regardless of religion, culture, language, or gender identity. To do so, you must give your staff the tools they need to understand, to effectively communicate, and to interact with people across all cultures.

Let’s explore the key steps your healthcare organization can take to improve cultural competence in healthcare. Your staff should be educated, armed with resources, and have daily practices that foster a more culturally competent work environment.

#1 Assess Your Team.

Collect REAL (race, ethnicity, and language preference) information to start a plan to include all team members and provide a work environment that fits their needs. Cultural competence in healthcare training enables staff to be culturally competent. They’re also better prepared to understand the unique needs of other cultures.

Through online diversity training, your healthcare professionals can learn and grow the appropriate skills. Other powerful tools include diversity training videos and live diversity training services.

#2 Evaluate current programs.

If you already have diversity training in place, evaluate how effective your current training programs are. If you see gaps in your training, it may be time to look at a custom training program that focuses on cultural competence in healthcare.

With this custom plan, you can focus on areas where your staff needs help while also celebrating the triumphs your organization has made to become more culturally competent.

#3 Open-Door Policy

When employees feel comfortable sharing their concerns or suggestions regarding their workspace, they will become more productive and feel accepted.

#4 Daily Practice

Management needs to take an active role in the daily building of an accepting and culturally competent workplace setting. Every day presents opportunities for growth, and your management team needs to understand how to teach cultural competence in healthcare.

#5 Try a Diversity Calendar

Cultural competency in healthcare gives your management team the tools they need for daily inclusion. A diversity calendar is essential for management and staff for both respectful scheduling and diversity celebrations.

#6 Respectful Scheduling

When your management staff is empowered with a diversity calendar, they’re able to respect the scheduling needs of all staff based on their culture. For example, your teams will know not to schedule Jewish healthcare team members during key holidays such as Passover or Rosh Hashanah.

#7 Heritage celebrations

Celebrate the differences between your staff and patients by celebrating heritage months and days. By following a diversity calendar, your staff can plan culturally appropriate celebrations for Black History Month, Kwanzaa, Hanukkah, and other interfaith and religious celebrations. An interfaith calendar is especially beneficial for this.

Cultural Competence in Healthcare Examples

There are many examples of how this cultural competence in healthcare can benefit your medical staff. Here are a few.

Dietary Considerations

Healthcare staff should be trained in the dietary and religious needs of their patients. Many cultures have special dietary considerations that should be noted. For example, ensure your staff doesn’t offer pork or shellfish to Jewish or Muslim patients.

Religious Considerations

If your workplace offers a chaplain, consider adding a rabbi, imam, and spiritual counselors of other religious affiliations to your on-call staff. Have the appropriate type of religious leader available for patients in crisis and for your staff.

Prayer Facilities

Many healthcare facilities are replacing chapels with interfaith worship spaces to serve the needs of more religious preferences. A non-denominational prayer and meditation room can serve as an inclusive sacred space for staff and patients of all religious backgrounds.


What is cultural competence in the healthcare system?
Cultural competence in healthcare has to do with the ability of a system to offer proper and compassionate care to patients with diverse beliefs and values.

Why is cultural competence in healthcare important?
The common goal of cultural competence in healthcare is to reduce any disparities, whether economic, racial, gender, or ethnic, when working to meet someone’s healthcare needs.

What are some cultural competence strategies to implement?
First, you must learn about your culture and any unconscious biases you have that may affect the care you give. Next, actively listen to learn what changes can be made. Also, participate in events or holidays that are different from your beliefs to learn about others.

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