Cultural Competence Among Occupational Therapists


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To achieve proficiency in occupational therapy, you must continually hone skills and develop effective strategies for delivering care to patients of different cultures. Cultural ineffectiveness can lead to gaps in clinical care and decreased patient compliance. Moreover, the lack of cultural sensitivity can breed distrust and miscommunication between clients, patients, and even colleagues.

Cultural Competence

Cultural competence involves navigating multi-cultural differences to ultimately deliver collaborative care resulting in positive outcomes between clinician and patient. Mastering the skills of effective communication and intervention requires a clinician’s awareness of cultural beliefs and biases and the drive to seek knowledge about other cultures. The overarching goals of true cultural proficiency involve cultural humility and cultural effectiveness in the everyday applications and interactions within this clinical practice.

To achieve proficiency in occupational therapy, you must continually hone skills & develop effective strategies for delivering care to patients of different cultures. Cultural ineffectiveness can lead to gaps in clinical care & decreased patient compliance.Click To Tweet

Cultural Humility

Individual beliefs and feelings can shape clinical planning. Practitioners need to remember that cultural humility is necessary for their roles as guardians and advocates for patient rights. For instance, knowing whether a patient’s culture is more autonomy-based or family-based can completely change the development of a patient’s care plan.

Occupational therapists often base their clinical decisions on their moral compass. While this may drive positive outcomes in many cases, there are times when their sense of right and wrong does not coincide with a patient’s beliefs. A clinician needs to take a step back before making a clinical judgment when this clash occurs.

Cultural Effectiveness

Cultural humility is a necessary step towards becoming culturally effective, to successfully interact with people of different cultures with respect, awareness, and sensitivity. The elements of this ability include:

  • Self-awareness of your own cultural beliefs
  • On-going development of cultural understanding and knowledge
  • Understanding, awareness, and acceptance of the nuances of cultural differences
  • Adapting interventions to a patient’s cultural context

Effective clinical planning allows for the creation of holistic and patient-based treatment plans. While there are gold standards of care, these standards may not always be the best fit for a patient’s cultural situation.For instance, if the suggested intervention is a tool that the patient cannot afford or does not understand how to use, adding this tool may not be the best option. Working with the patient to understand their therapeutic goals and means of obtaining care will result in a respectful plan based on their actual needs.

Complete Cultural Proficiency

Beyond its positive implications for patient care, cultural competence can elevate the field of occupational therapy by improving the strategies within entire healthcare systems, the development of clinical policies, and the environment within the OT community. Learn more at WPS about continually incorporating cultural competence and effectiveness within OT to drive balanced interventions for patients through SPM™-2.





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