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ADVANCE Perspective: Physical Therapy & Rehab Medicine

Cultural Competence--It's the Law

Published February 10, 2009 3:54 PM by Lauren Fritsky

LAS VEGAS--Everyone is different, including your patients and coworkers. Why then do some therapists expect to be able to treat everyone the same?

Different people require different approaches according to their personality and culture, CSM attendees learned in the session "Managing Diversity in Home Care," led by Tonya Yvette Miller, PT, DPT, of Harrisburg, PA, and Jennifer Walsh, PT, DPT, of Lewisburg, PA.

"Our patients are all going to be different types of people...obviously a cookie-cutter style is not going to work," Dr. Walsh said.

Therapists must take into account eight characteristics that involve the dimensions of diversity: age, race, gender, sexual orientation, ethnicity, mental and physical activity, religion and socioeconomic status. But before they do that, therapists must assess themselves as individuals. The speakers asked attendees to determine their color profile, which describes the ways in which they perceive and learn. Knowing their own traits is imperative to being able to best deal with the traits of others. Therapists must also have the right attitude and skills necessary to best facilitate cultural competence when treating patients.

But the cultivating of cultural competence is not something therapists should do when the mood strikes them. It’s actually required by the Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Service Standards (CLAS), developed by the United States Department of Health and Human Services, which apply to any institution or facility receiving payment by Medicare or Medicaid. These guidelines ensure that the health care needs of all individuals are delivered in a manner consistent with the individual's cultural and linguistic backgrounds.

There are 14 CLAS standards, four of which are mandatory. The first three involve hiring a diverse work staff and providing education that is culturally and linguistically appropriate. Standards 4 through 7 are required and necessitate providing language assistance at all points of contact in a timely manner. This includes providing written and verbal notices of a patient's right to receive language assistance and supplying interpretive and bilingual services. The remaining guidelines include involving linguistic and culturally appropriate services in a strategic plan in addition to the performance plan and mission statement of your facility.

For more information about the CLAS standards, click here.



Great info.  Great point about how we perceive and learn coloring how we interact with others from cultural backgrounds that differ from our own.


Janey Goude February 14, 2009 11:15 PM


Thanks for this.  I had never seen it before.

jason February 10, 2009 7:05 PM

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