Cultural Competency in Care

Cultural competent care has many definitions. Cultural competency is the ability “to provide high-quality effective health care to patients from diverse sociocultural backgrounds” (Green p, 1071). One of the most important aspects of providing cultural competent care is to have basic knowledge about different patient’s cultures.  It is important to understand how the culture looks at different aspects such as pain, death, diet, and who usually makes the medical decisions within a family. Dr. Camphinah-Bacote, an authority on cultural competence, considers cultural competence as an ongoing process.  “Cultural competence is not the mere acquisition of knowledge, skills and attitudes- it requires a genuine desire to work with culturally diverse clients” (Berg,n.d.)  Simply put cultural competency is the understanding of the areas of people identities that are important to them, both in the areas in “which they seek treatment and those that inform that distress in terms of its etiology, its expression, and its treatment” (Brown, 2009).

It is important for any medical or mental health provider to be culturally competent while working with Complementary and Alternative Medicine because the patients may have values different from the practitioner’s own. One of the major issues in today’s health care system is the disparity of health and health care among minorities and lower socioeconomic classes. The disparities between White and racial/ethnic minority clients have been a newsworthy topic in recent years.  There have been some studies on showing this disparity but minimal studies on determining why this has occurred in the first place.  Due to these disparities some have argued that providing culturally competent care is ethically essential (Imel, Baldwin, Atkins, Owen, Baarseth, & Wampold, 2011).  Medical and mental health practitioners should be aware of the disparities and recognize their own values.  Practitioners should be patients centered and they should understand the patient’s needs.  They should also be sensitive to the patient’s culture and use this culture and beliefs into the patient care plan (Westberg,  Bumgardner,  & Lin, 2005).

Cultural competence is not something that can be taught in a seminar or class. As there are an infinite amount of cultures and cultural combinations throughout the world it is impossible to learn about how everyone interprets their culture and which aspects they generally adhere to. Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) are the first comprehensive set of standards of cultural and/or linguistic competence in healthcare service delivery ever developed by a national organization. The standard began when the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and Office of Minority Health reviewed the existing standards. The CLAS were created after this review. The CLAS Standards are guided by 3 themes: culturally competent care, language access services; and organization supports for cultural competence (Berg,n.d.).

In addition to the changing of cultures, we as individuals are constantly growing and changing, thus changing how we look at other’s cultures.  As humans we learn and grow throughout our lifetimes and this is the same for our understanding of cultures and hence our cultural competence.


Berg,D. (n.d.) Culture, faith traditions, and health. Retrieved from

Brown, L.S. (2009) Cultural competence: A new way of thinking about integration in therapy. Journal of Psychotherapy Integration,19(4),340-353.

Green, A.R., Betancourt, J.R. Park, E.R., Greer, J.A., Donahue, E.J., & Weissman, J.S. (11/01/2008). “Providing culturally competent care: Residents in HRSA Title VII funded residency programs feel better prepared.”. Academic medicine (1040-2446), 83 (11),  1071.

Westberg, S. M., Bumgardner, M. A., & Lind, P. R. (2005). Enhancing cultural competency in a college of pharmacy curriculum. American Journal of Pharmaceutical Education, 69(1-5), AA1-AA1-AA9.

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