According to the US Census Bureau (2003), by the year 2020, 44.5 % of all American children will belong to some minority or racial group, so providing a culturally effective healthcare is a crucial task for American pediatrics. However, it is also a very complicated thing to do, because to give young patience a proper medical care, one has to take into consideration various cultural aspects, such as language, customs, religion, medical practices and so on.
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To learn how cultural background affects medical service, I interviewed a representative from Russia whose mother tongue is Russian. Obviously, if a patient and medical staff do not speak the same language, it creates not only confusion, but prevents trust development. Moreover, if such patient is a child, this factor is even more keenly felt. If a person simply does not understand what a medical provider is saying and vice versa, it is impossible to start an appropriate therapy. Furthermore, misunderstanding which may appear as the result of a language disparity, may lead to wrong diagnosis and, consequently, wrong treatment. As to the interviewee, he speaks English well and uses it while talking to his doctor, but when it comes to medical terms, there appear to be some problems, so he admitted using dictionary for communicating.
It should be as well pinpointed, that when the patients, and in case of pediatric care their parents, do not speak English, the hospital can resort to the service of an interpreter. This option is particularly suitable for pediatric healthcare and for people with poor knowledge of the language. However, it does not eliminate the possibilities of misunderstanding completely, since there is no guaranty that the interpreter will fully convey patient’s thoughts.
Cultural factors have a major influence on what a person considers to be the reasons of an illness. In most cases, it is predetermined by the person’s understanding of an illness per se. The definition of what it means to be a healthy or an ill person influences how a patient perceives his physical condition. Consequently, these views frame how the symptoms are understood and what illness they are attributed to. For example, it is characteristic for the culture of the interviewee to postpone the visit to a doctor. There is also a conception that people’s sensitivity to pain varies across cultures, so frequently, patients resort to medical help when the situation is critical.
As to the methods of treatment, in most cases they largely depend on the level to which medical care of the culture is developed. The interviewee admitted that in his culture, alternative medicine is very popular, and is practiced both together with the conventional one and on its own. Moreover, it often happens that people rely on self-treatment and refuse to go to the hospital. Of course, this may hamper the recovery.
While speaking about healthcare in different cultures, it is also worth mentioning religion as one of its essential components. People often tend to rely on prayers and meditation as an integral part of a healing process. Sure, one culture may include several religions, and a medical care staff should know whether the patient belongs to one of them or not, because religion may promote practices which could cause a sleekness or prohibit some types of treatment.
Culture may also predetermine how people act in the situations connected to human birth, growth and death. For example, some nations believe that prematurely born children should not be saved, or there exist a ban on in vitro fertilization. As to Russians, the interviewee did not mention any unique practices of this kind, though this largely depends on the patient’s religion.
So, culture plays a vital role while providing patients with proper medical service. Taking into consideration such factors as language, religion, customs and other cultural practices is a key factor in a culturally competent healthcare system.
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