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Cultural Diversity in Hospice Care
last updated:
Mon, 1/17/2011 12:06 PM

What does it really mean to have cultural diversity within an organization? As I pondered this statement, I looked back to my beginnings in northern Mississippi. I grew up in a time of segregation and separation in the south. This was during the 50’s, 60’s, and early 70’s. Surely this term was not invented then. I remembered neighborhoods with only one race in them. Sections of town were racially & culturally divided.

Cultural diversity is the variety of human societies or cultures in a specific region, or in the world as a whole. Cultural diversity within a hospice care program is typically a rarity. However, according to the research information listed below, African American participation in Memphis hospice care is far beyond the national average. During my tenure as a hospice chaplain, the area census listed more African Americans than Euro-Americans (Memphis is over 60% African American), but it also shows a greater number of Caucasians using hospice care.

It would seem that we here in Memphis are truly blessed. Research found that the ratio of African Americans to Caucasians is much lower than the national average. Listed below is a graph of hospice admissions by Methodist Alliance Hospice. It appears that the ratio is much closer here than I had envisioned. Clearly, African Americans lag behind Caucasian hospice usage. However, during the charted period (October 2007 - December 2009), Caucasians led African American hospice usage by only 110 patients. The ratio is nearly one for one. This is a rarity for hospice usage nationally. I think it is also important to note that the graph below includes not only Memphis and Shelby county but other outlying counties in west Tennessee and Northern Mississippi as well. 

Unduplicated Hospice Admissions by Gender and Race/Ethnicity: 

RACE/ETHNICITY  

MALE

FEMALE

UNDEFINED

TOTAL

Unknown

32

43

0

75

Native American

0

2

0

2

Caucasian

485

679

6

1,170

Asian

4

8

0

12

Other

2

1

0

3

Hispanic

5

6

0

11

African American 

437

614

9

1,060

<Undefined>

21

39

6

66

Total:

986

1,392

21

2,399

Cultural diversity in the Memphis area is constantly changing. In our hospice program, I have been privileged and blessed to minister to multiple races. I have ministered to Asians, Africans, African Americans, Hispanics, and Caucasians, just to mention some. Our hospice care in Memphis meets individuals where they are regardless of race, religion or national origin. I know we have not reached it yet but I believe that we are ever so slowly moving toward the “Beloved Community” spoken of by Martin Luther King Jr. 

---

Chaplain Eddie L. Conner, DMin, BCC is a chaplain with Methodist Hospice in Memphis, Tenn. All opinions expressed here are those of their authors and not of their employer. Information provided here is for medical education only. It is not intended as and does not substitute for medical advice. Call 888.777.5959 for more information.

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