Cultural Safety – Respect and Dignity

We are often asked why cultural safety is an important part of respectful maternity care.

Cultural safety incorporates physical, emotional, psychological and spiritual well-being.

A commonly used definition of cultural safety is that of Williams (1999) who defined cultural safety as: an environment that is spiritually, socially and emotionally safe, as well as physically safe for people; where there is no assault challenge or denial of their identity, of who they are and what they need.

The elements of ‘safe’ care are defined by the recipient of care.

Cultural safety encompasses a wide range of cultural determinants. The elements include partnership, connection, effective communication, respect, preservation of dignity and emotional support.

Cultural safety provides recognition of the manifestation of power inherent in any interaction and the potential for disparity and inequality within any relationship. Importance is placed on identifying and evaluating one’s own beliefs and values and recognising the potential for these to impact on others.

Acknowledgement by the healthcare practitioner that imposition of their own cultural beliefs may disadvantage the recipient of healthcare is fundamental to the delivery of culturally safe care.