Linda Matti

As an obstetrics nurse at Mayo Clinic, I had the opportunity to interact with a diverse population of patients. In the 1970s, we saw an influx of mothers from Southeast Asia. In the 1980s, we served an increased number of Eastern European patients, and in the 1990s, we delivered high numbers of babies to Sudanese and Somali women.

Often our department was the first point of access to Mayo that these patients experienced as newcomers to our community. As nurses, we realized that we didn't know enough about culturally competent patient-centered care to be able to provide care that the patients could accept and follow. We needed to learn more about their cultures and health practices. The experience awakened in me the importance of multicultural education, and eventually led me to my current role at Mayo.

We all have conscious or unconscious biases about people, especially if those individuals are different from us in some way. These biases are learned behaviors. As we are exposed to different situations and people, we find that some of our biases are validated and some of them are not. We often need to redefine and relearn how we interact with people who are different than we are.

Mayo is a learning organization, and it is a great place to explore the best ways to interact with patients and staff members who come from different ethnic backgrounds or age groups.

For the first time in history, we have four generations together in the workplace. We have people in their 50s and 60s with years of experience and specific expertise. They understand the cultural history of Mayo and can share it with new staff. We have people in their 30s and 40s who understand processes and are often technically savvy. The staff members in their 20s teach us how to work smarter rather than harder and how to operate successfully on a team. And new entrants to the workplace are the most diverse ethnically. They bring a new level of uniqueness and an ability to provide care in a culturally confident way that we can all learn from.

Just from the perspective of age diversity, I can't help but say it's a great time to work and learn at Mayo Clinic.

Nov. 11, 2010