Cultural competence

Cultural competence is the ability to effectively interact with people from cultures different from one’s own, especially through a knowledge and appreciation of cultural differences. In general, competence means the quality of possessing the necessary skill or knowledge to handle a particular situation or task. In cultural competence, this means having the knowledge and tact to understand people and treat them equitably despite cultural differences (which often result in very different views about what is expected or appropriate in a particular situation). Cultural competence is often used in the context of medicine, in discussions about improving medical care for patients of all cultures. For example, knowing that some patients’ religious practices may prevent them from attending appointments at certain times may help a health care provider to provide better care by offering more flexible appointment times or other accommodations. The term is also becoming more well-known in other contexts, such as in discussions of how to make workplaces more equitable and inclusive. The adjective culturally competent is used to describe a person who has cultural competence or actions that demonstrate cultural competence. Example: Any hospital that wants to improve patient outcomes should be training its staff in cultural competence.

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