2. Starting the Integration Journey

In this lesson we will start you on a journey of self-reflection, examining the concept of cultural competence and the role it plays in hiring and integrating IEHPs. We’ll also introduce you to some IEHPs who have agreed to go through a similar self-reflective process, sharing some personal insights about their own cultures.

Starting the Journey

(To read along click here.)

When healthcare organizations hire and integrate internationally educated health professionals, they start a journey towards cultural competence: developing a work environment where all members of the team understand, communicate, and interact effectively with each other across cultures.

Because of its benefits, this is a journey worth taking—one that develops over time with guidance, experience, and self-knowledge.

Researchers Cindy Brach and Irene Fraser (click here) have found that cultural competence is more than just a good idea in the service of respectful diversity—it actually relates to equitable access to health care. They outline the following progression:

Reality of diverse populations—This reality is the catalyst to learn.

Acquisition of cultural competence techniques—In order to relate effectively to people with different cultural backgrounds, cultural competence is necessary.

Implementation of techniques—Cultural competence improves communication; there is a difference in the way that patients and clinicians relate.

Patients receive appropriate services—Sometimes care can be refused if it is offered in a culturally-insensitive way. (See here, for example.) Cultural competence can help healthcare professionals address concerns and clear away misperceptions as they present care options.

Improved outcomes—Appropriate services lead to improved outcomes.

Reduction in health disparities—When every patient from every cultural background can receive appropriate health care, health disparities are reduced, and feeling of patient wellbeing is increased.


In the next video we will consider the key attributes of cultural competence.

Cultural Competence

(To read along click here.)

Studies show that people who excel at cultural competence possess four key attributes:

  • An ability to adapt quickly to new situations or people, managing their attitudes towards other cultures with respect, and understanding the culture within themselves.
  • An interest in becoming knowledgeable about other countries strategically, taking charge of their own learning plan and finding reliable sources of information.
  • An open attitude towards intercultural communication and developing new relationships with people of other cultures. Reflecting. Seeking feedback. And knowing how to cope with cultural surprises that may come up—unexpected behaviour caused by a different viewpoint.
  • Expertise in strategizing. Knowing exactly why becoming culturally competent benefits them personally and professionally, and focusing on achieving their goal in an organized, systematic fashion.

In their book about cross-cultural diversity, Lionel Laroche and Caroline Yang make an excellent point about this process of becoming culturally competent: “Being aware of the stages we go through in order to develop cultural competence helps us to be patient with ourselves and others.”1


1Lionel Laroche and Caroline Yang. Danger and Opportunity: Bridging Cultural Diversity for Competitive Advantage: Routledge; New York: 2014. p.261.


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