Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Cultural Competency for the Naturalistas: Would this happen to Whoopi Goldberg?

Recently, I wrote a book published in March of 2010 by Jones and Bartlet Publishing, Inc. There are stories, written in this book in a form that is called Case Studies, to get the thoughts and opinions of individuals who read them.  Also, there is one chapter, (the last, but not the least), that is specific to women. So, check out the Case Study below from the book.  I am definitely intersted in your opinion and whether the folks who were to provide service to this woman understand that Natural is Cool Enough (N.I.C.E.).  For example, do you think this would happen to a true Naturalista like Whoopi Goldberg as an example? Book available at www.jblearning.com/catalog/9780763761646/ or   http://www.amazon.com/Cultural-Competency-Health-Administration-Public/dp/0763761648/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=books&qid=1290018881&sr=8-1
CASE STUDY ( pgs. 131-132, Chapter 11)
An African American woman enters a healthcare facility where she is to receive a magnetic resonance image (MRI) of her spine.  She has long hair in the style known as locks.  She is greeted by the receptionist and asked to have a seat in the waiting area until the technician is ready to see her.  A White, male technician arrives to escort the woman in for the proceudure and briefly discusses the process of the MRI with her.  During his overview,  he indicates to her that she will have to remove any metal objects (such as pins in her hair and jewelry) and that she should remove her hair for the process.  The woman is appalled by his latter statement and indicates to him that her hair is her own and cannot be removed.  He responds by stating that he has served a number of Black women who have weaves and other "false" hair often held in by pins, so he was basically taking a precaution.  The woman in is highly insulted and asks to speak to the Administrator on duty.  A White woman, in an elegantly tapered suit, arrives, hears the concern, and explains to the African American woman that the technician meant no harm but it is the policy of the facility to be thorough with all patients in terms of the provision of information and that he was correct in inquiring about her hair in the manner that he did to ensure safety during the MRI process.  She offers no apology and curtly responds, "I hope this resolves your concern as he was merely following our required protocol."  The African American woman responds with a disappointed and curt thank you and leaves the building, promptly vowing never to return.  She seeks her MRI at another facility.


Natasha -- MyDreadlocks.com said...

Living in a multilingual and multicultural city, this wouldn't surprise me. Montreal has one of the largest Jewish populations and many Jewish women who follow orthodox tradition wear wigs, too.

The reason for asking is imperative but the approach to asking is important. Health care is such a sensitive issue and for staff who work crazy double (eek, triple) shifts sometimes tactfulness is not high on the agenda.

So, would it happen to Whoopi? Maybe. As someone with locs, I'd rather be asked and be safe than not be asked at all. Great, great topic to bring up!

Dr. Patti Rose said...


Point well taken but working long hours is not an excuse to be culturally incompetent. It's not just a matter of tact but moreso an issue of respect and valuing differences. As someone with locs, I definitely do not want someone to ask me to remove my hair for any type of procedure. Any assumption that my hair is not my own would be a stereotype based on a lack of knowledge, hence a problematic perspective in serving patients. That would be inappropriate, disrepectful and just not the way to go. Cultural competence is a skill set that is needed as much as any other necessary skill in terms of the optimal provision of health care. Unfortunately, perhaps it would happen to Whoopi but one would think that because she is so well known in society and that most people are familiar with her locks that perhaps she would be able to avoid such an insult. However, unfortunately, you are probably right. When one is lacking essential skills, their ignorance may supercede any other formidable characteristics held by the patient. Thanks for your comment! Very interesting thoughts...