The world is full of many vibrant cultures. It’s impossible to understand each one. But cultivating cultural humility and showing your willingness to learn about your patients’ cultures can go a long way. In this episode of Off the Charts, we talk about cultural competency vs. cultural humility with Dr. Miguel Ruiz, a HealthPartners hospice and palliative care physician. Listen to the episode or read the transcript.

Competency vs. humility
When people think of understanding cultures that are different from their own, it’s easy to focus on competence. Cultural competence is knowing facts about another culture. Someone who is culturally competent might understand the basics of cultural norms and values, but knowing the basics of a culture doesn’t give the same level of understanding as someone who is from that culture – which can lead to stereotypes.
Cultural humility shifts the focus to someone’s willingness to learn about another culture. The key tenet of cultural humility is understanding that learning is a lifelong journey. Someone who practices cultural humility says “I seek to learn” rather than “I already know.”
How to put yourself in a mindset of cultural humility
Setting yourself in the right frame of mind can help you practice cultural humility. Before each interaction, it’s important to reflect on where you’re coming from and where the other person might be coming from.
For example, a doctor preparing for an appointment is in a position of power, in a familiar space and feeling well. But their patient might be feeling sick, could be in a new and uncomfortable setting, and may be feeling vulnerable. That patient might also speak a different language or be part of a minority group. All of these things play a role in the interaction.
By working to approach people with cultural humility, it can be easier to foster a sense of trust and better communication. Listen to this episode of Off the Charts to see how cultural humility impacts health care.

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