With the recent increase in migrant populations in the West, effective health communication has become an important clinical skill for healthcare workers. Imagine the plight of a healthcare provider who has to diagnose the ailment of a patient who does not understand English. How would the provider understand the patient’s medical history, diagnose the ailment, create a treatment plan and motivate the patient to follow the plan for their safety?
While the healthcare provider might face their own challenges, the patient might be emotionally distressed, which will impact his/her basic understanding of health information and services necessary to make appropriate health decisions.
Providers have the duty of ensuring health equity by addressing the growing diversity and increasing disparities between consumers. Patient and provider relationships depend on trust, which is determined by the cultural competence of the provider.
Building a Culturally Competent Workforce Through Corporate Training
Cultural competency training includes skills and knowledge that value diversity and teaches learners to respond to cultural differences within cross-cultural situations. Training helps to improve intercultural communication skills, explore barriers to care and address the needs of diverse consumers and communities.
The learning design should aim to improve healthcare access and outcomes. Let’s see how this could be achieved with a well-drawn-out list of objectives, approach, and rollout plan.
Cultural Competence Training Objectives
Healthcare is a cultural construct. It’s almost impossible to know and teach everything about a culture. Training objectives address facts using universal skills.
Increase knowledge and skills – working with patients
Improve provider outcomes – working with colleagues
Innovative Approaches to Cultural Competence Training
Although face-to-face training has typically attempted to address cultural competence, the versatility of eLearning technology helps introduce and sustain behavior change over prolonged periods. Personalized training provides the learners ample control over what and how they learn. It helps develop an attitude of humility, respect, and empathy which are crucial for a successful clinical relationship.
Building cultural competence through eLearning formats like Simulations or Gamification offers a safe environment for learners to practice and facilitates content retention through trial and error. It also allows the trainer to track progress, success, and failure, which will help evaluate the impact of cultural competence on healthcare workers and patient satisfaction.
A blended learning or a hybrid learning model with a flipped classroom, peer coaching, and role-plays, with multiple debriefs to model the behaviors and transform roleplay to real play would work well. This could be followed by reinforcement and motivation through Simulations and Games. Together, these will help improve the provider’s knowledge, understanding, and skills for handling patients from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds.
Learning and behavior change always calls for an immersive strategy, so balancing learning with case-study discussions and reflection activities can prepare an inclusive and culturally competent healthcare workforce.
Note: Educational modules can always discuss cultural sensibilities, along with verbal skills, body language, etc. However, tackling providers’ deep-rooted beliefs and practices and comfort with or stigma towards treating lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patients may not change immediately. Helping the learners (providers) understand and acknowledge their racism, biases, and power disparities could be tackled by steering clear of stereotypes at every step and connecting cultural competency to professional values. Finally, the effectiveness of standalone strategies can be greatly improved through organizational changes.
Rolling Out an Effective Cultural Competency Training Program
Organizations need to develop a culturally competent workforce. Adopting the right strategies will help their healthcare workforce realize the importance of diversity and inclusion in treating patients.
Communicate the goals to create a strong sense of inclusion.
Use different formats to share content in digestible chunks, use consistent messaging and closed captioning, if required, for accessibility purposes.
Monitor content usage and popularity on a dashboard; track training and provider feedback to determine the need for iterations.
Providers always have the best intentions to treat a diverse population in the best possible way, but they may not always know how to make that possible. Knowledge of attitudes and behaviors specific to certain communities could help providers work effectively in cross-cultural situations and overcome the barriers to the delivery of a high-quality, culturally competent health service.
Incorporating culture-specific attitudes and values is a continuous process. E-learning has the potential to make cultural competency training a lot more effective and sustainable. Excellence, Efficiency, and Empathy in training development and deployment might just drive the ongoing commitment to reducing healthcare inequities.
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– By Rukmini Chaudhary, Director – Instructional Design at MPS Interactive