Often, we act in ways that are not in the best interest of our patients and colleagues. We may do so unknowingly, but doing so can cause just as much harm as doing so knowingly. As audiologists and audiology students, we are responsible for providing care for all individuals. The United States is a diverse country, and we are likely to have non-English speakers as patients. As healthcare providers, we need to be aware of our differences and the resources available to better care for individuals who do not speak English. It is essential to recognize that individuals who are non-English speaking may be misdiagnosed or diagnosed later in life due to language barriers or other cultural differences. This puts these individuals at a disadvantage.
How can you become a better clinician for populations from other cultures?
- Increasing Self-Awareness: It is crucial to reflect and become self-aware of your own biases and the potential for racism. Our unconscious and conscious beliefs can affect our ability to provide sensitive and appropriate care to people of a variety of cultural backgrounds.
- Combating Ethnocentrism: Ethnocentrism is the idea that your beliefs are superior and more desirable than anybody else’s. This can prevent you from providing care to a patient who shares different beliefs and ideas than you.
- Avoiding Stereotyping: Stereotyping individuals does not allow you to consider how individuals within a group can be different from each other. This may limit how you provide care.
How to overcome cultural and linguistic barriers.
It is important to remember that we cannot discriminate on the basis of national origin, so it is crucial that we provide the best care possible for people who are non-English speaking, regardless of our familiarity with the patient’s language. Utilize your hospital or clinic’s interpretation services to best care for these patients.
When working with interpreters, it is important to use clear and concise language, speak in short sentences, provide repetitions when asked, and explain unclear medical terminology. While medical interpreters are trained to be able to interpret medical information, complex audiology terms may be difficult for the interpreter or patient to understand.
When in doubt, reach out to trusted supervisors or colleagues for advice.
Overall, cultural competency is an ongoing learning experience. The Academy and SAA have several resources available for improving cultural competency and diversity in audiology and it is important to continue learning how you can best care for patients from diverse backgrounds as you begin your audiology career.
Weissberg, K. (n.d.). Delivering Culturally Competent Care: Strategies for Clinicians. AudiologyOnline. Retrieved October 11, 2022, from https://www.audiologyonline.com/articles/delivering-culturally-competent-care-strategies-27224
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