Cross-cultural communication during a health crisis
The COVID-19 pandemic is disproportionately affecting the most vulnerable among us. This includes the elderly and those with underlying health conditions. It also includes communities of color, immigrant communities, low-income workers, and the prison population.
As more data emerges that show how social inequities are fueling the pandemic in the United States, it is clear that cultural competency and bias awareness in healthcare is more important than ever.
The healthcare system in many states is overwhelmed by cases of COVID-19 and struggling to secure the resources it needs to safely and effectively treat patients. It may seem like too much to ask for physicians and caregivers to be mindful of cross-cultural communication issues and unconscious bias in such hectic conditions.
But this is precisely the time when skills in cultural competency are most needed. The Three Tenets of Cross-Cultural Communication presented below are a helpful touchstone for all of us to keep in mind as we move forward in our professional interactions—whether they be in the most critical care settings or in other roles no doubt touched by our current reality. They may seem like simple recommendations, but there are concrete ways clinicians can actively exhibit them for maximum effect. They are empathy, curiosity, and respect.