It can be easy to think that most people you interact with have a similar background to your own. But when it comes to practicing dentistry, making these sorts of assumptions and judgements can actually restrict your ability to successfully treat your current patients or even to grow your patient base.
So how do you address and change these beliefs and habits? That’s where cultural competency comes in.
Cultural competency is your ability to understand, appreciate and interact with people from cultures and belief systems that differ from your own. Cultural competence is a lifelong process of becoming more aware and seeing past your deeply engrained viewpoint.
Cultural competency consists of five components:
The goal isn’t to change your beliefs or values. Instead, you’re learning to shift your perspective so you can better work with and help people who may be different than you. By understanding your patients’ viewpoints and meeting them where they’re at, you can provide more effective treatment and support that will fit their unique needs and means.
The first step to becoming more culturally competent is evaluating where your practice currently stands. For example, consider how patients who primarily speak a non-English language would navigate your office to schedule and come in for a typical visit. Would they be able to easily communicate with your staff and fill out forms? Would your important in-office signage be understandable? How would you discuss procedures with them?
Do your best to identify areas of improvement and start working towards addressing them. Try to think about how people of different religions, ethnicities, races and customs would experience your office. It’s likely that you won’t see everything, but even small changes can be a massive help to patients. Make sure that you create a warm, welcoming environment so that every patient feels comfortable asking questions and participating in their care so you can better serve them.
One great way to address issues is by giving patients an easy way to submit feedback and encouraging them to do so. Here are some ideas on how to get started:
An important part of cultural competence is taking action, with the goal of improving your service and creating better outcomes for your patients.
Delta Dental offers a variety of resources to help you create a culturally inclusive practice.
As a more culturally competent practice, you’ll be in a much better position to care for your patients and grow your practice.