How is cultural sensitivity important in professional communication in health care?   

Expert Answers
thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Cultural sensitivity is necessary for communicating effectively with patients. There are several reasons for this. 

First, there are topics that may be considered taboo in certain cultures such as sexual dysfunctions which nonetheless may provide important diagnostic information. Associated with this are many modesty taboos. Women from certain Islamic cultures may be particularly uncomfortable with male health care providers and have religious beliefs that would prohibit most forms of physical examination by a man. This can impact their ability to be treated successfully.

Different cultures also have different forms of politeness. A patient who considers medical personnel rude may not communicate as effectively with them and may not be as likely to seek follow-on treatment. 

In many cultures, there are strong religious or spiritual components to healing. It is extremely important to learn and respect those beliefs and to work with spiritual or religious practitioners to treat a patient effectively. A patient who believes he or she  has been cursed who who believes that he will not recover without a certain religious ceremony may not recover until he or she has received appropriate traditional as well as modern medicine.

There are significant cultural differences in reporting pain and in the effectiveness of pain treatments. Without appropriate cultural understanding, there is the possibility of misdiagnosis or mistreatment.