Caring Across Cultures
In an age in which diversity and healthcare inequalities are prominent issues, culturally competent care has emerged as a popular response. However, there seems to be a gap between this academic interest and the attempts to implement cultural competency in the American healthcare system. The aim of this qualitative research was to explore the link between culture and health and to uncover what cultural competency might mean on a practical level through a case study of the pediatric in-patient units of an urban hospital in Boston, Massachusetts. Through participant observation over the span of two months, as well as 20 semi-structured interviews with 14 healthcare providers and 6 bilingual Latino parents of pediatric patients, I investigated the challenges that these groups face in providing and seeking care, respectively. The results of this project attempt to give voice to the families and their providers, as well as suggest how the hospital can better accommodate the needs of the Latino population. Overall, this project has revealed the complexity of the links between culture and health, and indicated that there is no single model of cultural competence that can adequately capture this complexity. Ultimately, relationships and good communication are at the core of the cross-cultural medical encounter, and may serve to create a more culturally welcoming atmosphere for patients of all backgrounds.