Cultural Competency: More than a Checklist

When I arrived at our MCH program’s cultural competency training. I didn’t quite know what to expect. In the program description there were terms that piqued my interest such as “ghost busting”, “time spirits” and “cultural transformation”. It seemed quite hyperbolic to describe a training to increase organizational effectiveness. But, one of my core values in the workplace is the well-being of all, so I felt like this would be an applicable training for me to attend.

The chairs were set in a U-shape. There were two chairs at the front. A large screen was there, but no projector equipment. I thought there would surely be some IT professionals arriving soon, because is there a such thing as a training with no PowerPoint? After having breakfast, Grace Flannery and Marita Fridjhon, our facilitators, briefly described our agenda for the day. We were to describe various “-isms” that we encountered in the workplace (both the ones that we project and the ones that we receive), in the morning session, and in the afternoon, we would come up with strategies in which we could address these –isms. It seemed relatively simple to me, but where were the bulletpoints, pictures, and lists that almost always accompany such trainings?

There were none. Grace and Marita used simple large post-its displayed on easels. We did have a program booklet to accompany the program, but it was mostly used as a reference to some key points. The purpose of the booklet was mostly to jot down some notes and to have something to refer to once the training was over. The 30 of us engaged in conversations, shared experiences, and challenged our own thought processes. The facilitators led us through a wide variety of moods; happiness, sadness, empathy, joy, pensiveness, to name a few. In the end, we learned that as a seemingly heterogeneous group, more of us were alike than we were different. We were armed with the tools we needed to personally influence those around us, by making an attempt to understand their background, before making judgments and thus having non-productive interactions with them. While it seemed to be a bit ambitious goal at first, I’ve truly become culturally transformed.

**NOTE:  We invite other attendees to share their stories.**

Written by: Bekeela Watson, UIC MCH, Graduate Education Coordinator

Photo: Bekeela Watson and Kris Risley, DrPH, CPCC,  MCHP Continuing Education Director & Clinical Assistant Professor (right to left)