Culturally Competent Care is a Large Part of Pharmacy Care, Deepening Community Connections


Students from the Daniel K. Inouye College of Pharmacy at the University of Hawaii discuss the importance of culturally competent care in Hawaii.

Analeslie Martinez: Pharmacists are the most accessible health care providers. I believe that about 90% of people live close to a pharmacy or have access to a pharmacist, and this is a great opportunity to have this deep meaningful connection with our patients, so we can build that trust. Pharmacists are constantly ranked among one of the most trusted professionals, and we need to make sure we continue to let the community know that we're here to help them.

Here in Hawaii, you see that time and time again, you see how word of mouth plays a huge role on how patients decide to choose their health care team. Whether it's a pharmacist that can speak a patient's language or the patient having such a great experience with a pharmacist or pharmacy. It’s going to get recommended throughout their community. I also see how comfortable patients are when they personally know someone from their community that became a professional like a pharmacist, and they're able to have that trust, because they know that we're here to care for them.

Andrew Schuler: The professors, as well as spending time within the Hawaiian community, educated me on the importance of understanding reasonable and respectful choices when it comes to someone's culture and cultural beliefs. I had to change my mindset and understand that treating 1 person's disease state may not be culturally appropriate for another person. At the end of the day, we are treating the patient and not their disease state.

It is important to understand the patient and treat them at the highest level possible to not only treat their medical condition, but to meet their demands that lines up with their cultural beliefs. You must have that mutual understanding with the patient and show them that you are including them and their needs when it comes to their health care. This will improve the patient's outcomes, safety, and experiences, and it will also improve the patient's compliance and adherence, which in the long run will lead to decrease of both hospital stays and costs for that patient.

Taylor Eleola: My courses have definitely done their part to educate and prepare me and my classmates to provide culturally competent care. However, I also find that culturally competent care can be a learned concept through patient experience, especially in such a culturally diverse state like Hawaii.

By simply conversing or even consulting with different patients, I've learned just how heavily family and culture affects a community's outlook on health care. During my summer rotation, I did most of the vaccinations at my pharmacy location, and through these interactions with patients and just “talking story,” as we call it in Hawaii, I was able to correct any misunderstandings about medication, supplements, vaccinations, and I was also able to counsel on topics such as side effects, efficacy, and other healthy habits to enhance medications, such as diet and exercise.

From these experiences, I learned that actively listening to patients and enthusiastically educating in a conversational way has helped to provide culturally competent care, especially in a tight knit community such as Hawaii where word of mouth is a prevalent source of information.

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