When does culture make a difference? Exploring the influence of culture in palliative and end of life care

Canada has a large and growing multicultural population with different perspectives on health and illness. This brings unique challenges to the provision of appropriate palliative and end-of-life care, where culture is known to influence communication patterns, decision-making styles, responses to symptoms, treatment choices, and emotional expression at end-of-life. Previous studies have shown that unresolved cultural differences can result in poor interactions and outcomes in end-of-life care. Although culture is known to be an important influence in health care, little is known about when and how people apply their cultural beliefs, values and practices to their health care experiences. Theories suggest that people often move back and forth between their traditional culture and mainstream culture to meet different needs. Harvey Bosma is exploring the ways in which culture influences interactions between culturally diverse patients and health care professionals in palliative care. He will use qualitative interviews and participant observations to develop rich and in-depth descriptions of these experiences from the perspective of a range of culturally diverse participants. Bosma’s findings will provide valuable insight into when and how culture facilitates or challenges health care interactions. The information can be used by physicians, nurses and other health care professionals to better understand the needs and actions of culturally diverse patients. Ultimately, the findings of this study may be used to enhance culturally-competent and sensitive care at end-of-life so that palliative and end-of-life care is relevant and accessible to individuals and families of different cultures.