Clinical staff can improve their relationships with patients by understanding the diversity of health care customs and rituals across cultures. Clinicians should also identify their own cultural filters and biases and how they impact client services.
Understanding patients’ and one’s own beliefs will help clinicians identify typical barriers to effective health care delivery and outcomes that are due to cultural orientation.
Examples of customs and beliefs may include:
1. Personal relationship and trust between provider and patient is extremely important.
2. Belief in fatalism or God’s will. This can affect whether or not they seek care and adhere to treatment.
3. Medical decisions often involve the whole family.
4. May use traditional or folk healers and medicines.
5. Since Latin culture is hierarchical, patients often view the doctor as an authority figure and may not express disagreement or lack of understanding.
1. Asian culture views health in a more holistic light than in Western culture. Health is not only physical, but spiritual, social and environmental.
2. Balance and harmony of opposing forces leads to good health. (e.g. yin and yang; Ayurveda (Indian) medicine).
3. Fatalism affects views of illness. This can include punishment or curses from spirits for wrong doings in this or past lives.
4. Traditional healing includes herbal medicines, as well as acupuncture to restore flow of chi (the life force in everything)
5. Medical decisions are made with the family. Often, bad news is withheld from the patient.
1. Faith and prayer are an important part of the healing process.
2. African American culture has a history of a strong mistrust of the health care system.
3. Belief in fatalism or God’s will.
4. Extended family and friends play an important role in successful treatment and healing.
5. Tradition of herbal remedies. Health care providers should ask about these to avoid potential drug interactions.
Here are some good websites for more information on patients customs and beliefs: