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In this paper, the researcher has made a review of the emerging standards of culturally competent care in reference to the working of the Gulf Coast Medical Center at Fort Myers, Florida, which opened in 2009 after becoming a single entity with the merger of Southwest Regional Hospital and Gulf Coast Hospital whereby it was converted into a new state of–the–art hospital with the latest medical facilities and equipment. It was found from the analysis that just as the entire US is impacted by the complexities arising from a culturally diverse population, the Gulf Coast Medical Center faces similar circumstances and needs to look into several aspects of its work in order to create a culturally competent healthcare system. In doing so, the treatment of minorities will not be compromised on account of the difficulties faced by healthcare providers and nurses as a consequence of language barriers and other culturally different practices. Nevertheless, the Gulf Coast Medical Center has demonstrated that it is open to adopting culturally competent healthcare systems and has already made major strides in this direction. However, culturally competitive healthcare can be provided with greater effectiveness if certain practical approaches are adopted by healthcare establishments. In order to make nurses more prone to making the hospital environment culturally competent, it is important to enhance their skills so that they can efficiently meet the needs of culturally diverse patient groups.
This paper reviews the emerging standards of culturally competent care in reference to the working of the Gulf Coast Medical Center at Fort Myers, Florida, which opened in 2009 after becoming a single entity after the merger of Southwest Regional Hospital and Gulf Coast Hospital whereby it was converted into a new state of–the–art hospital with the latest medical facilities and equipment. The Gulf Coast Medical center comprises a total area of 456,000 square feet of constructed area and boasts of the latest medical facilities. The hospital’s emergency services are very well equipped with treatment rooms, observation units and examination centers that can meet any emergency situation without requiring patients to wait. In addition, the surgery facilities are exceptionally advanced in keeping with the additional needs of functions relative to neuroscience, orthopedics and general surgery. The hospital’s radiology department is equipped with digital technology, which allows physicians to make observations on their monitor screens and to make adjustments in facilitating diagnosis. The Gulf Coast Medical Center has been recognized by Health Grades America for the last three consecutive years for its excellent services and facilities in overall medical care.
Given that the US is constantly becoming more diverse in terms of ethnicity and race, healthcare organizations in the country are expected to consider the varied value systems, perceptions and behaviors of patients from different backgrounds. If health care systems are not able to effectively manage cultural and social disparity there will be severe consequences for people from minority communities. It is for this reason that the study of cultural competence is assuming greater significance, particularly in the context of developing strategies of reducing disparity and inequality in providing healthcare. Cultural competence in healthcare relates to the capability of healthcare organizations to provide appropriate care to people with different behaviors, value systems and belief systems. In effect, cultural competence in health care implies enhancing accessibility to an appropriate standard of caring for all patients irrespective of their cultural backgrounds. It is also considered a business strategy for attracting more patients and enhancing the market share in the healthcare sector.
In fact, all definitions of cultural competence in health care touch upon the need for healthcare organizations to be in the know of and to be responsive to the varied cultural perceptions of patients from different backgrounds. Since its very inception, the Gulf Coast Medical Center has been adopting practices of cultural competence as a means to enhance the standards of healthcare for all patients, irrespective of race or community from which they come. There are perceptions prevalent in many sections of the population that patients from minority groups face difficulties in getting appropriate treatment in view of hurdles emanating from factors such as language differences and differences in expectations of health care responses by the hospital. It is now widely recognized that cultural competence in healthcare implies respecting and considering the cultural background and beliefs of all patients while treating them.
Although the Gulf Coast Medical Center takes several initiatives in ensuring the provision of culturally competent healthcare to its patients, it does face certain barriers in this regard, which it is trying to overcome with the adoption of remedial strategies. Despite its best efforts, the hospital does face challenges in terms of socio-cultural barriers amongst patients and healthcare staff. There is a distinct shortcoming in terms of diversity amongst healthcare professionals because although minorities comprise about 28 percent of the total population, they are extremely underrepresented in the healthcare sector. On a national basis, there are only 17 percent of healthcare professionals who are minorities and almost the same position is apparent at the Gulf Coast Medical Center. This is an area that creates major concern about the extent to which the healthcare needs of minorities are met. The cross-cultural communication between patients and healthcare providers is very poor in the hospital because most of the healthcare providers are unable to understand the socio-cultural disparities, often increasing the risk of stereotyping, which often results in compromising on health outcomes. These factors have further repercussions by way of resulting in poor patient satisfaction and complying with the observance of medication schedules and health recouping plans. In the event of healthcare providers failing to communicate effectively, there is a spontaneous behavioral pattern on the part of patients in compromising with the best systems of clinical decision making.
Standards of cultural competence at the Gulf Coast Medical Center are being met through efforts to remove language barriers amongst patients and healthcare providers. The hospital is always endeavoring to remove ethnic and racial differences in healthcare, which is done by adopting strategies of quality improvement and by using greater measures of cultural competence at varied levels of the administration. The Gulf Coast Medical Center believes that making adjustments in systems of cultural competence will improve healthcare delivery. Through its experience in this regard, the Gulf Coast Medical Center has learned that it is in a strong position to use its present structures in integrating newer initiatives involving policy and legal definitions that are directed towards greater equality inaccessibility of healthcare services. Given that majority of racial and ethnic minorities are not economically very well off, efforts are being made to get funding through schemes such as Medicaid whereby attempts are made to include more people under Medicaid eligibility. The objective is to provide amongst other services, treatment relative to mental health, alcohol and drug abuse and better healthcare services for children (Betancourt, 2002).
It is important to note that delivery of nursing can be adversely impacted when standards of healthcare are not being met. The main objective of providing culturally competent healthcare is to ensure social justice and if nurses do not apply the principles of social justice in the context of families, communities and other providers of healthcare, the very purpose of culturally competent healthcare is not fulfilled. It is thus important for nurses to imbibe competency and leadership skills in order to effectively advocate policies that are in keeping with social justice. Nurses ought to involve in critically reflecting on their own cultural heritage, belief systems and value systems so that they remain aware of the ways in which such aspects can affect nursing care that is culturally harmonious. In addition, nurses need to have a thorough knowledge of different cultures, which is why they should be trained to learn the family systems, practices, value systems, perceptions and traditions of culturally diverse people whom they treat. It is important for them to learn culturally sensitive skills and to have greater cultural knowledge about diverse cultures. Culturally competitive healthcare is most effectively provided when nurses understand the impact of delivery systems and healthcare policies, which they can use in empowering their patients. If nurses are not provided with the necessary education and knowledge about cultural diversity amongst patients, they will not be able to deliver culturally competitive healthcare (Expert Panel on Global Nursing & Health, 2010).
In situations where standards of culturally competent healthcare are not being met, it is important to adopt practical procedures that will link cultural competence with the elimination of racial and ethnic disparity in healthcare. The focus has to be made on the promotion of minorities so that they assume leadership roles in healthcare establishments. In addition, focus must be made on hiring larger numbers of racial and ethnic minorities in health care professions. Removal of institutional and systemic barriers in healthcare will allow healthcare providers to have greater awareness about cultural aspects as related to belief systems about health. The organization’s cultural competence can be improved by introducing programs that improve leadership in minority healthcare. Such programs can be strengthened whereby minority healthcare providers can be placed in leadership positions in healthcare systems. Systemic cultural competence entails the use of the services of hospital interpreters, particularly in settings where patients have lesser fluency in English. All information about health that is given to patients must be reflective of their health literacy levels. Use of procedures such as informed consent and easy-to-understand treatment instructions are helpful in this regard. Bigger health institutions such as the Gulf Coast Medical Center should introduce systemic interventions of cultural competence whereby ethnic and racial data can be collected and interpretation services introduced. Research efforts should be made towards identifying ways of detecting medical inaccuracies occurring due to inadequate systemic cultural competency levels, particularly those that are an outcome of language disparities (Ross, 2014).
After it was established in 2009, the Gulf Coast Medical Center at Fort Myers, Florida has made its mark as a leading healthcare provider in Florida and is now recognized amongst the premier healthcare institutions in the country. Nevertheless, just as the entire US is impacted by the complexities arising from a culturally diverse population, it is quite apparent that the Gulf Coast Medical Center needs to look into several aspects of its work in order to create a culturally competent healthcare system so that treatment of minorities is not compromised on account of the difficulties faced by healthcare providers and nurses in recognizing their issues and needs as a consequence of language barriers and other culturally different practices. Nevertheless, the Gulf Coast Medical Center has demonstrated that it is open to adopting culturally competent healthcare systems and has already made major strides in this direction in providing high-quality healthcare to minorities. However, culturally competitive healthcare can be provided with greater effectiveness and more easily if certain practical approaches are adopted by healthcare establishments. In order to make nurses more prone to making the hospital environment culturally competent, it is important to make them educationally prepared in the promotion and provision of healthcare systems that are directed towards meeting the needs of culturally diverse patient groups. However, this is possible only by introducing processes involving training on issues relative to cultural diversity and the professional growth of all categories of healthcare workers. The objective of such programs should be to enhance awareness about ethnic and racial disparities in healthcare in relation to the significance of socio-cultural aspects on belief systems and behaviors relative to healthcare. This is possible only by developing human resource competency levels in relation to cross-cultural evaluations, negotiations and communication.
Betancourt, J. R. (2002). Cultural Competence in Healthcare: Emerging Frameworks and Practical Approaches. Web.
Expert Panel on Global Nursing & Health. (2010). Standards of Practice for Culturally Competent Nursing Care. Web.
Ross, R. K. (2014). Principles and Recommended Standards for Cultural Competence Education of Health Care Professionals. Web.