Working with Diverse Populations

Posted by Brian Lee in Public relations |


Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

Image courtesy of jscreationzs at

Is your hospital or clinic providing the highest quality care to every patient regardless of race, socioeconomic status, ethnicity, culture or language proficiency?

A report on cultural competence concluded that “a framework of organizational, structural and clinical cultural competence interventions can facilitate the elimination of these disparities and improve care for all Americans.”

Following are tips for how your hospital staff can work with diverse populations, whether internally or as part of community relations campaigns.


One objective should be that staff gain sufficient self-awareness to eliminate the influence of personal biases and values in working with diverse groups. According to research that led to the development of the Multicultural Toolkit, the stages of intercultural sensitivity start from denial (“does not recognize cultural differences”) and end at integration (“can shift frame of reference and also deal with resulting identity issues”).

Hospital staff, and even volunteers, should be required upon hiring to take multicultural training. Invite community leaders from diverse backgrounds to share their perspectives. Have other staff share their stories. Teach staff how to work with an interpreter. Make sure attendees don’t stereotype groups because of a list of so-called “facts” about them.

Training should be ongoing. The communications department can constantly re-educate staff through case studies, quick tips, etc. in staff newsletters, the Intranet and other internal communication channels.


Demonstrate to staff that hospital leaders, the boards of trustees and senior staff are committed to cultural competence. For example, have the CEO attend every new employee training to discuss the organization’s goals.

Make sure to go through a checklist before you execute any tactics. For example, if you are hosting a community function, ask yourself: what type of meat, if any, should you serve? will the schedule of the event conflict with prayer times? should you address attendees by their first name? etc.

In addition, because the hospital’s PR/marketing department is a two-way communications vehicle, it should regularly conduct a community needs assessment and survey patients/community leaders to measure the effectiveness of your efforts.

You also can track your progress by seeing how many of the National CLAS Standards your hospital has in operation. These standards “aim to improve health care quality and advance health equity by establishing a framework for organizations to serve the nation’s increasingly diverse communities.”

As you progress toward cultural competence, your healthcare organization may realize lower costs and fewer care disparities, according to a Joint Commission report.



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