CSULB MSW Students
Tina Ho, Alheli Mercado, Eunice Ofalla, and Tammy Van are MSW candidates at California State University, Long Beach.
by Tina Ho, Alheli Mercado, Eunice Ofalla, and Tammy Van
One of the critical values that a social worker must possess is to be culturally sensitive, or mindful of the different ethnocultural backgrounds and languages that exist. Social workers must uphold the utmost respect of different ethnic backgrounds by educating themselves on the different types of cultural medicinal practices that may strengthen the professional and personal relationship between patient and social worker. Failing to adhere to these social work values may potentially be harmful and hinder the interpersonal relationship. For example, if social workers do not fully comprehend what is normal within the circumstances of the culture, they may make decisions that would be harmful to the patient. Furthermore, they may potentially hinder their ability to build on the patient’s strengths.
Use of complementary and holistic healing is common practice across all cultural groups. In ethnic cultures, wherein holistic healing may be preferred over biomedical treatment, there is variability in the way treatment is sought and consumed, with Chinese and Filipino populations gravitating toward herbal medications, and South Asians opting for mind and body practices such as yoga. Given social workers’ need to reflect the diversity in the populations they serve, it is crucial that social work professionals familiarize themselves with the methods in which cultures and subcultures maintain and pursue good health, which is their right as human beings.
Patients may use holistic approaches as a complement to the treatment they are receiving, rather than focusing on just the symptoms and disease. Holistic approaches, unlike Western medicine, engage with a person’s physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual dimensions, as they are based on the value that body, mind, and spirit are an integral whole that cannot be separated. Music, art, prayer, yoga, meditation, and deep breathing - among other holistic approaches - can lead to the healing process. Every intervention or interaction is holistic in its impact, meaning it can affect the whole person. It is important to know holistic approaches do not replace medications and/or treatments, but rather they are designed to help reach a positive state of being. As social workers, we must be committed to the patients we serve, and cater to their physical, mental, and spiritual needs.
Efforts to develop cultural competence within the hospital include the provision of translation and interpretation services to address linguistic needs, cultural diversity trainings for staff to increase their knowledge of diverse values and beliefs, and the implementation of a multidisciplinary team approach to provide holistic care to patients and families. Social workers play a vital role in patient advocacy and are often called upon to educate staff on culturally appropriate approaches to treatment, resulting in an increased level of trust and understanding between the patient and the multidisciplinary team. Patients are thus more likely to adhere to medications and treatment plans, leading to reduced health disparities and medical costs.
Tina Ho, Alheli Mercado, Eunice Ofalla, and Tammy Van are Master of Social Work students at California State University Long Beach.