Chapter 2: Respecting and responding to cultural practice and traditions


The paramedic says
Tyne talks about respecting difference and asking patients and families what is important to them. (3:22)Video transcript
The expert says
Dr. Carrie Bourassa discusses respecting diversity and that while healthcare providers aren't expected to know culture needs, asking questions and respect is key.(3:22)Video transcript
The palliative care expert says
Dr. Mike Harlos explains culture in the context of death and dying. (3:22)Video transcript

There are hundreds of cultures and subcultures in the world, each with their own approaches to serious illness, death and grief. Not everyone within a culture or subculture will approach death in the same way. You may encounter different rituals before and after death. Grief may be expressed in a way you don’t fully understand.

While the families you work with may have their specific cultural practices or rituals, most won’t expect you to know what these are or what’s important to them. Rather, they’ll expect openness, respectful curiosity, and willingness to understand and respect their beliefs and values. Keep an open mind – and remember that some cultures believe the way a person is treated in death, and how the body is handled after death, will impact the afterlife.

Being comfortable with difference

People sometimes have a tough time working with differences. You may not understand or agree with the beliefs or traditions a family holds about death, an afterlife or grief. Perhaps the way a family talks about what is happening at the end of life may be unusual, shocking or even insulting to your values or approaches.

Remember you are a guest

Your job is to provide a critical service to this patient and family during a very significant time in their lives. Adopt an attitude of respectful curiosity and humility when working with people of different cultural backgrounds. Suspend tendencies to judge or evaluate behaviours or expressions of grief that may be different than yours.

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