Understanding Diversity and Cultural Competency
Cultural competency is defined as 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 intricate nature of the term cultural competency then there are many myths that surround the term. 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. On the contrary 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. 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. It is important to state that cultural competency is not a one-time event but is a lifelong process that is repeatedly used in every interaction. An incredible fact is that the process needs to be reapplied all through one’s career and must be re-evaluated periodically by the organization.
It is irrefutably true to note that the other wrong assumption is that the person’s culture, ethnicity, gender or even disability has taught them to be culturally competent. Its is a known truth 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.
Another myth is that cultural competency is naturally learnt in an organization that has diverse cultures. It is of utmost importance to remember that 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. The other point worth pointing out is that 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.