It’s not easy being a Cultural Competency Coordinator. There are so many aspects that need to be dealt with it can seem overwhelming. It is exactly for that reason that we formed the Cultural Competency Coordinators’ Forum, so that they would not need to go it alone. Even more recently we formed an offshoot – a Forum for Cultural Competency Coordinators from Public Mental Health Institutions – since the field of mental health is drastically different than general health care. The 8-member forum includes representatives from all 7 public mental health institutions in Israel – from Acco to Beer Sheva to Jerusalem to Tel Aviv – and was formed on the heels of our networking / feedback session, before the Manual for Cultural Competency Coordinators was published. This forum meets monthly.
Members have already learned a great deal from one another. For example, the coordinator from Be’er Ya’akov heard about the medical interpreter’s course at Abarbanel, and the course is being implemented at Be’er Ya’akov. Similarly, the coordinator from Mizra heard about the workshops we did for the administration at the Jerusalem Center for Mental Health, and in January it will start workshops for its 50 administrative and managerial personnel.
On November 5, 2013 mental health forum had a special treat – a visit to the Western Galilee Hospital in Nahariya. Why Nahariya? The first few meetings of the Forum had included introductions, peer learning and setting goals for the group, and after that it decided that it was time to learn from the field. Nahariya is a model example of both administration and staff being committed to making its care culturally sensitive to all its patients, and using creative means to do so.
The Cultural Competency coordinators at Nahariya had participated in our first course for cultural competency coordinators in 2012, and have come a long way in a short time, thanks to the continued support of the management at all levels. We came to see how they did it, and how we can adapt their methods to mental health institutions.
The visit had 3 parts:
- A presentation on how the hospital led the Cultural Competency training sessions for its staff. It was very important to the administration that local hospital staff lead the training sessions. This showed seriousness on the part of the hospital and sent a message to the staff that ‘we value this enough to dedicate two staff members for in-house training and integration, who will be here to follow up and make sure that the principles are implemented.’ Because the training was performed by local staff, there was more motivation, there was no need to wait for the training, and more help was on hand in assimilating the principles.
- A tour of the hospital. Participants were taken to the hospital’s Muslim prayer room, one of only a handful in all Israeli hospitals, which was established in cooperation with the Ministry of Religious Services. They were also shown the hospital’s creative method of multi-lingual signage. The hospital had already had signage in Hebrew and English, but needed to add signs in Russian and Arabic, and did not want to spend the high cost of re-printing all the hospital’s signage. Its solution – printing the requisite signs on giant stickers that were stuck to the floor. What a novel idea!
- Participants were also shown the pilot of a telephone interpreting system, which is being funded by the Ministry of Health. They first learned how the telephone system works. It uses a special telephone with two handsets – one for the patient and one for the physician. Both are listening to the interpreter, who is on the other side of the line, in a call center. The idea is that eventually all health care institutions in Israel will be hooked up to this system, and will be able to use it all day, every day, without having to wait for an interpreter to be on call in the building.
The day ended with participants discussing their thoughts on the most important points, and how they can assimilate any of the ideas into their own institutions. One action item that arose was the need for a Cultural Competency Manual dedicated to the unique needs of mental health facilities. We will begin to write this manual at the next meeting, which is in the middle of December 2013.