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How to Build Trust With Patients From Diverse Cultural Backgrounds

An older man reaches behind him to hold the hand of the nurse on his shoulder.

No two patients are alike. Everyone comes into a medical facility with unique cultural beliefs, experiences, and linguistic abilities. 

Those differences are what make people unique. But it can also make it challenging for healthcare professionals to appropriately diagnose and treat everyone. 

That's why building trust with your patients and developing cultural competency is essential to quality patient care. 

What Is Cultural Competency and Why Does It Matter?

Cultural competency is the ability to effectively and respectfully interact with people from diverse backgrounds while making them feel heard and valued. 

As the United States becomes increasingly diverse, cultural competency is necessary in all workplaces, especially in the healthcare sector.

Patient-centered care requires open communication with patients and their families, which can only happen with a foundation of trust and understanding. And that can only occur if there's first a level of cultural competency in healthcare. 

Let's say a patient refuses a certain treatment based on religious or cultural beliefs. Or they may seem closed-off and aren't sharing any medical history. Or perhaps they speak a little-known language and respond "yes" to every question without fully understanding the situation. 

All these situations can lead to conflict, misunderstandings, and even misdiagnoses — unless you build trust with the patient through cultural competency. 

How to Build Trust With Cultural Competency

There are several ways to build trust with patients from diverse backgrounds, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Promote Cultural Training Sessions

Learning about other cultures provides a solid foundation of cultural competency — and it helps participants overcome unconscious biases that could lead to conflict or misunderstandings. 

Consider advocating for training sessions at your healthcare facility so everyone can learn about various cultural customs, communication methods, and beliefs. That way, when someone from another background comes in for a consult or care, your team can respond respectfully — not with judgment or stereotypes. 

These training sessions can cover everything from appropriate hand gestures across cultures to ways to respectfully discuss treatment plans that may not coincide with religious or cultural beliefs. The training can also teach methods of self-awareness so team members can identify and remove any bias.

Use Plain Language and Respectful Body Language

Making patients feel comfortable is one of the best ways to build trust. There are two primary ways of doing this in conversation: plain language and respectful body language. 

Plain language is simple, direct, and personable language. Healthcare facilities commonly use it for written documents for increased comprehension, but it also applies to spoken language. 

Anyone — especially non-native speakers — can easily get confused by medical jargon, especially if you're rushing through the points. It's essential to slow down and ensure you are using simple English. This is especially important when using an interpreter to ensure that every point is correctly communicated. 

Your body language is just as important as your words. Limited eye contact, crossed arms, or anxious foot tapping can make a patient feel unwelcome and pressed for time. 

Here are some tips for incorporating plain language and respectful body language in your patient interactions:

  • Replace medical jargon with everyday words
  • Explain diagnoses, treatments, and procedures in simple terms
  • Use lists or steps where applicable
  • Use the second-person point of view (you/your)
  • Speak at a slow pace
  • Limit time on the computer when talking to patients
  • Maintain eye contact
  • Keep an open, friendly posture
  • Lean forward toward the patient, and nod your understanding when they talk
  • Keep in mind any cultural training about physical contact and hand gestures

Offer Comprehensive Language Services

We've already established that communication is essential to building trust with patients, but plain language can only go so far with patients with limited-English proficiency (LEP). All patients deserve to fully understand the conversation and express their symptoms, concerns, and questions.

And that's where comprehensive language solutions come in. 

They not only make patients feel comfortable and valued but also ensure quality care. Healthcare professionals can't properly treat a patient if they don't have the whole picture of what's going on. 

The solution is to offer interpretation and translation for all situations for your LEP patients. You should always provide language solutions — and then ensure they are available at all times. 

The best way to do this is with telephone and video remote interpretation. That way, you can offer language services to everyone, even if no on-site interpreters are available or the patient speaks a language uncommon in your area. 

Language Services = Quality Patient Care

Don't make your patients rely on their second (or third or fourth!) language when seeking medical assistance. You want the full story, and they want to tell it — so make it possible by partnering with a language service provider like GLOBO. 

GLOBO offers diverse solutions, from translation services to on-demand access to  medically-qualified interpreters.

Schedule a demo today to see how GLOBO can help you build trust with your patients and provide top-notch care.

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