Cultural Sensitivity

Cultural competency, diversity awareness, and empathetic respect are at the heart of interdisciplinary hospice care — and of successful Partnerships.

Some important issues to keep in mind when communicating with your Partner:

  • Start with respect. Respect is the cornerstone of a healthy partnership and must be foremost in the relationship.
  • Take time to build relationships. Start by “being,” not “doing.” While there is much to do in a Partnership to advance hospice and palliative care, a critical first step is to forge trusting relationships. Begin by concentrating on listening, getting to know the Partner organization, conveying acceptance and trust, and genuinely learning from one another. “Doing” will more effective once this foundation has been established.
  • Engage in active listening. Cultural differences often lead to communication differences in style, substance, and/or meaning. Check and double-check what you think you hear, and be aware that cultures vary in how people address an issue.
  • Keep linguistic differences in mind. Even if the staff at your Partner organization speak English, communication issues are likely to arise from differences in meaning, idioms, and/or slang. Make sure you understand one another, particularly in the beginning of the Partnership.
  • Take the time to learn about the history of your Partner’s country. Colonialism, oppression, racism, and sexism are historical realities — it is important for your team to know the background in which services are being provided in your Partner’s country.

If frustrations arise, consider this advice from the U.S. Peace Corps:

“In trying to appreciate the differences between your culture and [your partner’s culture], you may feel that you’re supposed to like and accept all these differences. Cultural sensitivity, however, means knowing about and respecting the norms of the local culture, not necessarily liking them. You may, in fact, be frustrated or even offended by certain acts. In some cases, increased understanding will lead to greater respect, tolerance, and acceptance; in others, it just leads to enhanced awareness.”

U.S. Peace Corps, Culture Matters: The Peace Corps Cross-Cultural Workbook

The following websites contain additional useful information:

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