Cultural Competency

Cultural Competency

Marisa A. Colston, PhD, ATC & Shewanee Howard-Baptiste, PhD

The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga; Department of Health and Human Performance

Race, ethnicity, religion, language, foods, belief system and other characteristics often define culture. Yet culture can be viewed on a continuum, meaning no one event, group of people, or identifier defines any one culture. No person has the exact same experience as another, therefore as healthcare professionals we should be mindful that cultures, histories, and experiences vary in meaning for each individual. Cultural competence is a life-long process, which one commits to daily. It is not an event and does not result from a few encounters with people outside of our own identified culture. Cultural competency requires awareness, knowledge, skill, encounters and desire or A.S.K.E.D.   Responding to questions in each component can be a means for working towards cultural competency.  For awareness, ask: “Am I aware of my biases and prejudices towards other cultural groups, as well as racism and other "isms" in healthcare? Relating to skill:  Do I have the skill of conducting a cultural assessment in a sensitive manner?  For knowledge:  Am I knowledgeable about the worldviews of different cultural and ethnic groups.  Regarding encounters:  Do I seek out face-to-face and other types of interactions with individuals who are different from myself? Finally, for desire:  Do I really "want to" become culturally competent? (Campinha-Bacote, 2002)

The benefits of cultural competency in athletic training include but are not limited to: increased awareness of differences that exist in care and treatment; improved quality of care; reduced biases and assumptions; better relationship with patients; and appeal to more diverse populations for future practitioners. Athletic trainers are committed to serve others. Our focus needs to be on humanity. This requires an ongoing developmental process that will likely feel uncomfortable, but necessary for change to occur. Cultural competence does not mean that we wipe all of the differences away.  We do not want to be color-blind, but instead color-blessed. As we shift our focus away from biases and more towards humanity, there are 7 statements/actions that can assist in our competency development.  1) I will lift you up.  What would it be like if we were a group of people who promised to lift others up regardless of where they are?  2) I will cover you.  Not cover up for you, but cover you so that you are not embarrassed, your culture is not embarrassed, at the expense of my jokes, politics or thoughtless comments. 3) I will share with you.  This means that I will open up my networks and opportunities so that you have access to the same things that I do. Getting special treatment on the backs of someone else should not be tolerated. 4) I will honor you. Why? Because I need you to know that you matter to me. 5) I will stand with you.  Standing together is a strong defense against division.  6) I will represent you.  When you have no representation, and even when you do, I will make sure you are considered and represented. Last but not least, 7) I will celebrate you…even if it means that I have lost.  

Cultural competency is far more involved then A.S.K.E.D. approach and applying the 7 statements, but these are certainly strong steps in the right direction.


Campinha-Bacote, J. The process of cultural competence in the delivery of healthcare services: a model of care. J. Transcult Nurs. 2002;13(3): 181-184.