Providing medical care to patients with limited or no knowledge of the English language can be very challenging. Miscommunication, different believes and issues can interfere with a good relationship between the health care giver, the patient and very often the patient´s family. I chose to include the patient´s family because the majority of the Latino population gives a big value to the family which is always present when there is a need to take an important decision such as health treatments.
Cultural values are some of many Latino cultural issues that can affect the relationship quality of health care for the Hispanic population in the United States. Personalismo, familismo, spiritismo, respeto and sympatia are some of these values.
The first value, personalismo, is a more friendly and appropriate physical interaction with the care giver which is welcomed by the Latino patient. A Physician who shows interest in the wellbeing of the patient, who knows their name, gives a handshake when greeting them and shows interest about other family members builds a trusting relationship with the patient.
Family plays an important role when there is a need for taking important decisions, including those in health care. This is known as familismo. A patient will think about their obligations to the family rather than their own personal good. Based on this, it is very common to see the whole family gathered in a meeting with the physician and a caregiver may have to wait until all family members have arrived before starting with the discussion about health issues.
Spiritismo refers to the belief that good and evil are present in a person’s everyday life. Amulets are often used as protection against evil influences, candles to light saints are present in many of the houses and the use of holy water is very common.
For any Latino, it is important to show respect to authority figures and the health care provider is one of them. Similarly, they expect some respect in return, especially if the patient is older than the physician. This mutual respect is called respeto. Some forms of this respect are treating the patient as “usted” instead of “tu” (“usted” being the formal way of saying “you”, and “tu” being more informal). This also includes addressing them as “Señor” or “Señora”, and being careful about asking direct questions about sensitive personal matters.
Simpatia is nothing different than being polite and not being hostile or confrontational. Many Hispanic cultures choose to smile in stressful situation rather than let themselves into a discussion...