Benefits of Cultural and Linguistic Appropriate Services (CLAS)
- Keeps you competitive
- Protects you and your organization
- Supports JCAHO accreditation
- Demonstrates concern and sensitivity
Having a definition of cultural competency is critical to the process of becoming culturally competent. Nationally, health care has many definitions of cultural competency with no consensus on a specific definition. Without an established definition, an organization or individual is unable to assess its progress toward becoming culturally competent. The ability to measure progress is important when a contract has cultural-competency requirements but does not define cultural competency. Currently, 45 state-managed care service agreements have cultural- competency requirements, but only 10 have definitions.
A good definition of cultural competence is stated simply, is clearly articulated, and is measurable. UC Davis Health System has defined cultural competency on both the organizational and the individual level. These definitions are:
Organization: The ability of a health-care organization and staff to understand and respond effectively to the cultural and linguistic needs brought by patients/consumers to the health-care encounter.
Individual: The ability to work effectively in cross-cultural situations.
The fact is that these two definitions do not always go hand-in-hand.
For instance, a culturally-competent staff member could work in a health-care system that is not culturally competent. In this case, the staff member is in a bind as the organization's systems, policies and procedures have not been adapted to support culturally-competent care and services.
The term cultural competency also needs to be defined as it is frequently misunderstood and used synonymously with cultural diversity.
Compare cultural competence to cultural diversity. Diversity respects the unique characteristics that all of us possess, the characteristics that distinguish us as individuals and identify us as belonging to a group or groups. Cultural competence goes beyond diversity and challenges an organization to strategically design its systems to deliver services in a culturally-competent manner.
The scope of these definitions apply not just to encounters between an employee and patient, but also employee to employee, employee to supervisor and employee to employer encounters.