Making a Mental ‘Switch’: Cultural Sensitivity Professional Development Workshop for Staff at the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health, Kiryat Hayovel Clinic

October 23, 2013

What is the essence of cultural competency? More than the manuals, more than the training sessions – cultural sensitivity is the switch in approach to the patient-caregiver relationship, from ‘let me make you better’ (on my terms, using my rules) to ‘let’s work together to enable you to heal’ (mutual communication, bridging communication gaps of language and culture, realization that one’s background and culture dictates one’s actions and reactions).

The intention of the workshop held on October 21, 2013 for members of the Kiryat Hayovel public mental health clinic, part of the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health, was to help the 25 participants make that switch in their approach. The all-day workshop included a discussion of the present situation, and staff members raised a number of examples of social and political tensions in the clinic. As in other Cultural Competency Workshops, we also covered a theoretical section, in which we went over basic aspects of cultural competency – interpersonal communication, core issues, cultural dimensions, medical interpretation, social and political tension and more. In the afternoon the medical actress joined us and we practiced 2 real-life situations.

The director of the Kiryat Hayovel Clinic was very cooperative, both during and after the workshop. He told us that he received positive feedback from his staff, and that everyone recognizes the need for changing their approach, with an emphasis on everyday work. He noted that many of the staff were aware of the concept of cultural competency, but this all-day workshop allowed them to concentrate solely on how cultural competency / or cultural sensitivity influences their work as mental health caregivers.

The workshop also made the director as well as the staff more aware of the need for medical interpreters (translators) when working with patients whose mother tongue is not Hebrew. The workshop therefore increased his motivation for including his staff members in the upcoming medical interpreter’s course at the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health in Givat Shaul.

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