Students also need to realize that an individual’s idea of what his or her culture is might not be the same as the cultural group’s idea; therefore addressing the patient as an individual is very important. Medical staff should encourage patients to describe their cultural characteristics and health beliefs during encounters. This is exactly what the doctors in The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down did not do. Fadiman explains that the reason why the doctors never asked the Hmong how they treated their illnesses was because the Hmong dressed in American clothes and had driver’s licenses (112). Assuming what the patient’s cultural beliefs are, based on the way they dress, how they live, or how they appear to be, is stereotyping, and can lead to ineffective health care for the patient. It is very clear that there needs to be much more done in training students how to be culturally sensitive than what is currently being done in medical school today, especially if doctors and health professionals recognize the fact that being culturally sensitive has a positive effect on the patient’s outcome.
How does one effectively teach medical students to be culturally sensitive? What some experts suggest is that in order to understand and appreciate another’s cultural beliefs and practices, students need to first look at their own cultural beliefs and practices. Professor David Prideaux states that there are at least three key elements in teaching cultural diversity:
Students should have opportunities to discuss and reflect upon their own cultural identities. They should interact with others who will represent and explain their own differing cultural identities. Finally they should be prepared for the delivery of health services in a manner which values, respects and enhances the cultural identities of those under their care.
Cultural Awareness in Nursing Practice
Training at some point, should also look critically at each student’s assumptions and attitudes about people different from themselves. This would involve teaching the students to recognize stereotyping, prejudice and racism (Kai et al). Students also need to be able to understand the strengths and weaknesses of their own culture and cultural identity. When this is achieved, only then can students begin to understand that one culture is not normal or dominant, stronger or superior than the other. Most doctors agree that prejudice and racism have no place in the medical field, yet they appear frequently (Borgeson) [A specific example would help make your argument stronger here]. Only when these issues are addressed will their there be any progress in the training of cultural sensitivity in medical school.