Cultural competence involves understanding and appropriately responding to the unique combination of cultural variables—including ability, age, beliefs, ethnicity, experience, gender, gender identity, linguistic background, national origin, race, religion, sexual orientation, and socioeconomic status—that the professional and client/patient bring to interactions.
The client/patient population reflects a wide array of differences as well as similarities across cultural variables. Professional competence requires that audiologists and speech-language pathologists practice in a manner that considers each client's/patient's/caregiver's cultural and linguistic characteristics and unique values so that the most effective assessment and intervention services can be provided (ASHA, 2004A; ASHA, 2006).
Developing cultural competence is a dynamic and complex process requiring ongoing self-assessment and continuous expansion of one's cultural knowledge. It evolves over time, beginning with an understanding of one's own culture, continuing through interactions with individuals from various cultures, and extending through one's own expansion of knowledge.
Clinical approaches—such as interview style, assessment tools, and therapeutic techniques—that are appropriate for one individual may not be appropriate for another. It is important to recognize that the unique influence of an individual's cultural and linguistic background may change over time and according to circumstance (e.g., interactions in the workplace, with authority figures, within a social context), necessitating adjustments in clinical approaches.
Cultural competence in service delivery is increasingly important to respond to demographic changes in the United States; eliminate long-standing disparities in the health status of people of diverse racial, ethnic, and cultural backgrounds; improve the quality of services and health outcomes; and meet legislative, regulatory, and accreditation mandates. In addition, cultural competence can contribute to a competitive edge in the marketplace and decrease the likelihood of liability/malpractice claims.