Last week I attended an End-of-Life Nursing Conference (ELNEC) and heard several excellent presentations regarding care for patients who are in the final stages of life. One of the sessions dealt with cultural considerations. I have posted blogs before on matters of cross cultural communication. Sometimes it has been in regard to interfaith dialogue, sometimes it has been on matters of immigration. The crucial fact to consider is that more and more we are living in a pluralistic society and communication across cultures is becoming more and more important.
Berlin and Fowlkes use the acronym L-E-A-R-N to outline their model:
L -Listen with empathy and understanding for the patient’s perceptions of the problem
E -Explain your perceptions of the problem
A -Acknowledge and discuss differences and similarities
R -Recommend treatment
N -Negotiate agreement
The starting point in cross cultural communication should be to realize that there are differences between cultures in terms of customs, values, interests, needs and priorities. We in the dominant culture should never assume that our way of seeing things is the best, especially for someone who is coming from a different culture. For true communication to take place, we must indeed listen and try to understand the other’s perspective.
In matters of healthcare there may be a treatment that the healthcare provider sees as beneficial, but there may be some aspect of the treatment that is misunderstood by (or even offensive to) someone coming from a different background. It is crucial for the healthcare provider to understand where the patient is coming from in order to explain why a particular treatment is recommended. It is also important to realize that our way may work just as well if it can be accommodated to their cultural practices or preferences.