"Clinically competent equals culturally competent," said Gloria Boseman, PhD, RN, and professor at New Jersey City University, who was the keynote speaker at the 11th Annual NYSUT Professional Issues Forum on Health Care held over the weekend in Saratoga Springs.
Speaking to 100 health care professionals, Boseman said that getting to know patients' or students' cultural background is essential to get them to trust , and to learn how to provide them the best care .
There is a different perspective to be had in treating a patient or student, depending on gender, geography, economics and belief system - such as traditionalist vs. western.
"You have to know who you're working with in order to change behavior," Boseman said. "Changing knowledge is easy. Changing behavior is harder… You have to go where your client's system is.
"Whether or not I believe in it, people are still going to operate in it," she said.
If you are working with populations of people not like you - be sure to identify them, Boseman said, adding that it is important to identify a person's support system.
Learning how to be culturally competent was one of many sensitive topics explored by health care professionals at the NYSUT forum as participants focused on how to successfully work with the students and patients they serve. Experts in the field provided answers to questions faced by school, hospital and visiting nurses; school social workers; speech therapists; school counselors; and other health care practitioners.
How do you tell if a student may be misusing prescription drugs when "prescription drug abuse is just skyrocketing" - especially among teens and college students - according to a state narcotics investigator? What are the current threats to health care? How can school counselors best use performance evaluations? How will the amendments to the Dignity for All Students Act impact school nurses?
"Working together with our Health Care Professionals Council, we assembled a cadre of professional development workshops," explained NYSUT Vice President Kathleen Donahue, who oversees the union's health care agenda. "Timely, relevant topics such as electronic health records and their potential impact in the workplace, and the awareness and importance of cultural nuances when providing health care were all part of our program offerings."