Clinical Tip: Simple queries that promote cultural exchange

April 1, 2007

I am genuinely interested in learning about cultures different from my own, and have found several ways to communicate my interest to the parents of my patients.

I am genuinely interested in learning about cultures different from my own, and have found several ways to communicate my interest to the parents of my patients. One way is to ask parents the meaning of an accessory their child is wearing-such as a bracelet, necklace, or string around the waist. (I always pay attention to the safety of such accessories and advise parents of any concerns). I also usually ask what the child's name means in their language, and write it in the chart for future reference. Last, I ask parents how to say "hello" and "good-bye" in their native tongue, and write down the words in my own notebook or on the chart. Such questions demonstrate that I respect their culture and am open to learning a bit more about it.

This approach has helped me to open lines of communication with families and put them at ease. Once parents become comfortable sharing tidbits about their culture, they are sometimes more willing to volunteer additional useful information, including home remedies they may use.

Leena (Latin root Helena, meaning light) S. Dev, MDAnn Arbor, Mich.