11 May 2023

Culturally Sensitive Care: Emergency Services In The Community

There are more than a few things that all emergency services have in common, including wanting to provide the best possible care to the community in which they operate. However, the people you serve can often make a difference in how you provide culturally sensitive care.

Let’s look at an example of culturally sensitive care in action, and a few steps you can take to provide the best care possible to culturally diverse groups of people.


Also called Hatzolah, Hatzoloh, and Hatzola, this is a volunteer emergency medical service that mostly serves Jewish communities. While the service offers free medical service to anyone, regardless of religion, they specialize in offering care to those of the Orthodox Jewish faith.

Reluctance to violate Shabbat rules or a woman’s concern about physical modesty can frequently create challenges for emergency medical services. Hatzalah responds to calls alongside regular EMS services in order to ease concerns and provide better care.

Hatzalah is not a unified organization, they operate independently or in affiliation with neighbouring chapters. Their legal status also varies from place to place. For example, in New York, Hatzalah is allowed to use red and blue lights along with sirens, but in Toronto, they use green lights and have the same legal status as volunteer firefighters.

Providing Culturally Sensitive Care

For most emergencies, you aren’t going to have the support of an organization specifically created to address cultural differences. However, the good news is that the above is definitely on the more extreme end of the spectrum.

It isn’t always about hard barriers preventing you from providing any care at all. It is often a matter of making those you’re helping feel at ease and comfortable with the care you need to provide. “There are some cultural differences, but not in terms of the emergency culture itself. Which is: do the best you can with what you have” said Lyle Quan, Vice President of Operations at EMG.

Luckily, there are a few steps you can take to strengthen your ability to provide culturally sensitive care:

Start By Looking Inwards

The first step you can take is building and understanding your own cultural values or blind spots. When problems arise due to cultural differences, it is often not born from a place of malice, it is simply a misunderstanding. Simply knowing that you haven’t been exposed to certain types of culture means it’s easier to look at things in a more positive light.

There are more than a few quizzes online that you can take to get a sense of your cross-cultural knowledge. Tests like this one aren’t bulletproof, but they will help you set a baseline.

Awareness and Acceptance

Now that you know where your cultural shortcomings might be, it’s time to build your knowledge.

If there is a significant population of a certain ethnicity, faith, or culture where you provide service, take the time to understand the differences. It can go a long way in reducing friction and giving the best care possible.

Build Rapport

One of the best ways to provide better care is by developing your communication skills. Spending time to learn about a group of people is fantastic, but at the end of the day, it’s often best to hear it straight from them!

What are they comfortable with and how can you be flexible in the care you’re providing?

If you enjoyed this blog, you’re going to want to check out the podcast that inspired it: Conquering Chaos and Mayhem.

In our debut episode, host Darryl Culley is joined by Lyle Quan to discuss leadership, the drive of emergency services to be the best, and lots more.

Lyle Quan has over 35 years of experience in emergency services, including police, EMS, and fire. Lyle has worked in Canada, the US, and across the world, bringing his expertise as far as the United Arab Emirates and the Country of Guyana. Lyle’s highly regarded reputation in the fire service is earned through previous positions with the Office of the Fire Marshal and Emergency Management, the Ontario Fire College, and several municipalities throughout Ontario. He also served as the Commissioner of Community Services and Fire Chief for the City of Waterloo.