Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Multiculturalism and Cultural Competency

A task those of us in athletic training education face is teaching specific orthopedic skills while balancing actually dealing face to face with athletes.  These athletes may be of many different ethnic origins, and have different religious or belief systems which the ATC has to take into account.  A few years ago, I read a fantastic book called The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures  It essentially documents a specific case of a growing population in the U.S., and the disconnect which can occur when both health care professional and patient fail to fully understand where the other is coming from.  ATC's and students can work with a variety of populations, and it can prove to be challenging and frustrating for both sides when cultural practices are not fully understood.
Cultural competency is a complex definition; thankfully, the U.S. Dept. of Health and Human Services has done a nice job of explaining it here.
There are also a number of good, scholarly articles on the subject if you spend the time searching.
My question to you: Do you feel as though you are comfortable treating an athlete from a different culture than one you are familiar with?  As health care providers, we must serve our patient base regardless of ethnic origin, and we need to be prepared to do a little research in order to be most effective.  A new text was released this past fall specifically geared towards ATC's.   Cultural Competence in Sports Medicine is a huge step in the right direction.  It's on my bookshelf, and it should be on yours!

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