Embracing Cultural Differences In Healthcare

Embracing Cultural Differences In Healthcare
We as a country are very fortunate to have access to the best medical care available. If we are ill, we can call our doctor, and make an appointment to be seen for medical treatment. We may prefer to go to the nearest urgent care or emergency department. However, as healthcare providers, we need to be mindful that we have become a multicultural nation.
With that come many different practices of medicine, some of which coincides and conflicts with religious and spiritual beliefs. It is during these times that you are tested as a person, and as a healthcare professional. It brings up many different feelings and emotions, especially if it goes against everything you believe in. It is during these encounters that one must be ever vigilant of their body language, verbal and facial expressions, and social interactions with the patient or family members.
We are all different. Other cultures may not understand why you believe, or practice the things in your cultural realm. At times they are not that different if you think about it. For example, some cultures pierce their ears and apply rings in them to make large holes in the earlobes. This is done esthetically and culturally. We as American’s pierce our earlobes. The hole is very tiny, yet it serves the same purpose, since we are performing it for the same effect.
The same is true for a patient you may care for, who prior to coming into the emergency department, may have had coining performed. This is performed mostly by the Vietnamese, Thai, and Lao. This procedure is performed on the back and ribs. The basic concept is to massage the back with warm essential oils. The goal is to relax the patient and to mildly irritate the skin. Then a coin is rubbed over the skin, usually away from the heart. The result of this will be areas of bruising on the back and ribs. This practice is used to treat fevers, the side effects of fevers, and lethargy.
It is interesting to note that some massage therapist incorporate a technique in their massage therapy called cupping. After the back is massaged with essential oils, suction like cups are placed on the back in various areas, and then released. The result is bruising on the back. The goal is to release muscle tension. Once again, both procedures are used for different reasons, but have similar outcomes.
Hopefully, if a parent or an adult goes for treatment to the hospital or physicians office, they are treated with respect for their cultural beliefs. If not, and they are treated with disrespect and fear because of a different cultural practice, they may not return for emergent or follow up care. The result of this could be tragic and most of all preventable. It is up to us as healthcare professionals to embrace the cultural needs and beliefs of others as they also embrace ours.

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