Student Spotlight: Cultural Humility & Ethics CE Event at UNC Chapel Hill

UNC Chapel Hill students and event presenters at the Spring 2018 "Cultural Humility & Ethical Practice" continuing education event

Students in the UNC Chapel Hill COTAD Chapter organized a continuing education event in Spring 2018 to increase awareness about cultural humility and professional ethics. The program titled "Cultural Humility & Ethical Practice" was 1.5 hours long and featured four speakers from diverse clinical and personal backgrounds who addressed multiple topics related to cultural humility and diversity and professional ethics. These students not only gained valuable experience in coordinating a large-scale CE event (including recruiting speakers, communicating effectively, and problem-solving), but they were able to deepen their own and others' understanding of the importance of cultural humility in everyday OT practice.

Throughout the evening, each speaker addressed a different element of cultural humility and diversity. For example, the first speaker provided a general overview of specific terms and concepts related to cultural humility to ensure attendees were using a shared language throughout the rest of the evening. Afterward, additional speakers provided case examples of advocating for patients of diverse backgrounds, cross-cultural learning experiences, and systems-level initiatives. Attendees participated in interactive activities and discussions, and refreshments were served to encourage a dialogue in a more informal atmosphere before and after the presentation.

As one of the guest speakers, COTAD Editor Lauren Jones, MS, OTR/L explained the difference between cultural competence and cultural humility using the following analogy to help attendees understand why this difference mattered:

"Imagine the occupational therapy process as going on a road trip with your client. Being culturally competent means you are the captain of the car, controlling the course of the therapeutic relationship. You have a roadmap, and you’re headed to the destination that you’ve selected. Sure, you chose this route based on “facts,” in many cases, but ultimately the course of treatment is what you believe to be the best path and doesn’t necessarily take into account your passenger or your patient’s preferences, beliefs, and opinions.

In comparison, cultural humility means you are the co-pilot. You have experience driving, and there is a map available to you (as in, the index card in your pocket), but you are aware of the fact that the roads on the map are only the paths most commonly traveled. As a culturally humble practitioner, you seek input and guidance from your client, planning the trip as you go along, learning and making changes to the route to get to a destination you’ve both selected together." (Lauren Jones, MS, OTR/L)

Another speaker described her experience of going with fellow OTD students to work with clients in a foreign country, and how she had to suspend her own personal beliefs, assume a posture of cultural humility, and learn how to collaborate with and learn from patients whose experiences – and whose homes, adaptive equipment, and preferences – were very different than her own.

At the end of the event, attendees were able to ask questions and share experiences with the speakers and others. Conversation flowed freely, and students as well as veteran practitioners came away with a deeper understanding of the value of cultural humility in modern OT practice.

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