Culturally Competent Care for Aboriginal Women: A Case for Culturally Competent Care for Aboriginal Women Giving Birth in Hospital Settings

  • June Birch Research Assistant, Misericordia Child Health Clinic, Misericordia Community Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Lia Ruttan Research Associate, Misericordia Child Health Clinic, Misericordia Community Hospital, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Tracy Muth Department of Educational Psychology, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
  • Lola Baydala Associate Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of Alberta, Edmonton, Alberta
Keywords: Aboriginal women, culturally competent care, hospital birth, obstetrics


Increasing numbers of Aboriginal women are using urban hospital settings to give birth. Culturally competent care, including an understanding of cultural, emotional, historical, and spiritual aspects of Aboriginal Peoples’ experience and beliefs about health and healthcare, is important to the provision of quality care. While there is a body of literature on culturally competent care, no models specific to Aboriginal women giving birth in hospital settings exist. This article explores Aboriginal peoples’ historical experience with western health care systems, worldviews and perspectives on health and healing, and beliefs regarding childbirth. Some of the existing models of culturally competent care that emphasize provision of care in a manner that shows awareness of both patients’ cultural backgrounds as well as health care providers’ personal and professional culture are summarized. Recommendations for the development of cultural competency are presented.

Acquisition of knowledge, self-awareness and development of skills are all necessary to ensure quality care. It is essential that - at both systemic and individual levels - processes are in place to promote culturally competent healthcare practices. Recommendations include: partnering with Aboriginal physicians, nurses, midwives and their representative organizations; conducting community-based research to determine labour and delivery needs; identifying and describing Aboriginal values and beliefs related to childbirth and its place in the family and community; and following Aboriginal women’s birth experiences in hospital settings with the overarching goal of informing institutional practices.