Mark Fleming, PhD, Licensed Psychologist and Director of Reentry Services for the Missouri Prison System, talks about the need for multicultural awareness in correctional healthcare practice. Multicultural awareness involves a greater understanding, sensitivity and appreciation of the history, values, experiences, and lifestyles to groups of people who aren’t your own. Those groups can include anything from race to ethnicity, gender, sexual identity, religion, disability status, and socio-economic status. Multicultural awareness involves recognition of the importance of racial and ethnic group identity and how that affects socialization and value systems. Ultimately, multi-cultural awareness is a lifelong journey of both self-awareness as well as awareness of other people’s cultures, struggles and ways of life.
Communication is an important component of nursing practice and a place where multicultural awareness is helpful. Part of that communication includes not making assumptions about the person who’s sitting in front of you. For example, an inmate who looks angry might really be dealing with depression. If you are only attuned to the anger you would miss what the real issue is. What you might be experiencing might not be the reality of the individual. Sickness and illness play out differently across cultures especially ethnic and racial cultures. A lot of minority cultures in particular will come to sick call and complain of a back ache or a head ache or something physical where the reality is an emotional concern. In many cultures it is much easier to seek help for a physical illness than for an emotional illness. Correctional nurses play an important role in seeking to uncover true concerns in that situation.
Recommendations to Increase Multicultural Awareness
• Celebrate a diverse holiday that you typically celebrate
• Visit an ethnic art gallery or a museum
• Volunteer at an agency that specializes in the population to which you typically do not have a lot of contact
• Invite a colleague out to lunch who is multi-culturally different from you and talk about your cultures.
• Take a cultural diversity course
• Try different types of ethnic restaurants
• Watching movies or plays that are indicative of cultures that are different that your world
• Joining clubs that are of a different culture than yours
Listen to the podcast for more helpful hints for expanding your multicultural awareness.