The number of ethnic patients in Canada’s health care facilities is growing and that will only increase in the coming years due to the influx of immigration. To effectively serve the needs of the patients, it is important for medical practitioners have a better understanding of the cultural differences.

A culture means a share of beliefs, values, traditions and ways of living for a group of people who share the same ethnic background, religion, age, economic conditions, sexual preferences, etc.

Being culturally competent is not about learning facts of an every culture or overcoming a language barrier. It is rather being respectful, open minded and willing to learn as you continue to treat patients from a variety of cultural backgrounds.

For instance, at times patients from certain ethnic backgrounds such as the South Asians, Latin Americans and Orientals down play their symptoms or indicate that they have very little pain for fear of being known as “winey”. The nurse or doctor has to make a judgement call to have a better understanding of the situation and take appropriate action.

Another option would be to bring in a professional interpreter to convey the information. At times using a child or relative can be tricky because the patient may not feel comfortable discussing their medical condition front of them.

Learning about different ethnic patients will definitely take extra effort, but in the long term it will be beneficial: better care, saves time and cost.