In a community where the population is growing at a rate of about 30 per cent annually and hails from such disparate corners of the world as Asia, Africa and the Caribbean, providing high quality hospital care isn’t just about clinical competency, it’s about cultural competency as well. The region served by William Osler Health Centre’s hospitals – the northwest Greater Toronto Area – is one of the most diverse in Canada and that diversity is reflected not only in the patient population but in the hospital staff as well. Given this environment, being knowledgeable about global customs, traditions, and religions is a definite asset.
A few years ago, the Respirology team at Osler’s Peel Memorial Hospital decided to highlight the cultures represented on the unit with multicultural displays during nursing week, as a way of helping the staff get to know each other better. After the transfer of patient services to the much larger Brampton Civic Hospital site in 2007, the team decided to expand the event and invite staff from other departments to view the presentations. And in May 2009, they held their first hospital-wide diversity themed celebration.
Each day of the week featured a particular region of the world – Philippines, India, Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean – with displays of artifacts, clothing, pictures, literature, and icons. Staff wore traditional clothing from the specific regions and served an array of ethnic dishes to create an atmosphere of fun and friendliness. An education room near the unit was set aside, and for a minimal fee, visitors and staff were able to eat lunch together each day and sample foods from the highlighted regions.
“There’s a real camaraderie that comes out of organizing this week,” said Davinder Bassi, Ward Clerk. “Sometimes, cliques can develop among staff for a number of reasons. But this brings everyone together. Housekeeping and dietary staff, nurses, doctors… everyone volunteers or participates in some way.”
Valrie Hursefield, Clinical Educator, also noted that planning the menus and displays requires a fair amount of research, which has benefits for both staff and patients. “It’s not about staying within the confines of your own culture. You have to learn quite a bit about different traditions and faiths in order to present them to others. Being involved in this event creates a different level of respect for colleagues that eventually translates to culturally competent patient care.”
An added bonus of the diversity celebration is the cultural orientation that it offers for newer staff. Amandeep Gill, RN, who is fairly new to Canada – she moved here five years ago – said the exposure to multicultural traditions, religions and foods has helped her understand the needs of patients who come from many different countries and backgrounds.
Interest in learning more about diverse cultures seemed to be widespread. The response from other departments at Brampton Civic was, as Hursefield put it, ‘overwhelming’. Staff and physicians from across the hospital took time out of their busy schedules to come and view the presentations and participate in the daily events, many bringing their families with them.
With the success of this year’s diversity theme, Osler’s respirology team already has ideas for making next year’s nursing week celebration even better.