The statement that has resonated with me the most throughout this class is, “cultural competence is a journey”. This has become increasingly clear to me as we continue to study different population groups, each with unique beliefs and practices. And the groups we are studying in this class just scratch the surface of the wide variety of population groups that I will serve as a future healthcare professional. I firmly believe that cultural competence requires dedication and life-long commitment. One must continually work to understand cultures different from their own. To me, cultural competence is best defined as the dedication to open-mindedness and learning that must accompany encountering beliefs and practices different from your own in order to respect your patients and provide them with the best care you can give.
In my career as an occupational therapist, I will work with numerous different patient populations any given day. I plan to work in a hospital setting, preferably in an urban environment, adding to the diversity of populations I will work with. As an occupational therapist, I will work a lot with people with disabilities. The module from this week contained a lot of information on this specific population and was very helpful in further building my knowledge base on how to work with people with disabilities. I will personally implement many of the strategies that were presented in the lesson notes including person centered terminology and making sure that I understand my own biases. The most important thing for me about working with people with disabilities is making sure that you see the entire person and not just the disability. I will work with people who have had special needs their entire life and others who acquire a disability due to accidents or other causes. It is my job to help these people find strategies so they can find success in their life and be productive members of society. This requires that I understand my patients as an entire person, not just the disability that they have. I will also do my best to make sure that the facilities that I will work in are accommodating to all and do not add any difficulty to the treatments that I will be implementing.
These strategies do not only apply to working with people with disabilities. I will also need to implement these strategies while working with all patients. No patient that I see will have the exact same culture and belief system as myself, so I will need to effectively communicate as to better understand how I can help my patients. This will require informing the patient of therapy methods that will be used as well as giving them alternatives if they are uncomfortable with the course of treatment due to cultural beliefs or any other reason. Through working with many different patient populations, I will be able to continue my own path to cultural competence by learning from my patients about their beliefs and practices. I will use this knowledge to help better serve others in the future.
Providing patient specific, inclusive care for all is not only something that I want to implement as an occupational therapist but something that is required of me. According to the American Occupational Therapy Association Code of Ethics, “Occupational therapy personnel shall treat clients, colleagues, and other professionals with respect, fairness, discretion, and integrity” (aota.org). Respect, fairness, discretion, and integrity are encompassed in the seven core values of occupational therapy: “altruism”, “equality”, “freedom”, “justice”, “dignity”, “truth”, and “prudence” (aota.org). By implementing these values into my work, I believe that I will be able to provide each patient I work with the best care I am capable of giving.