Cultural-sensitivity training in U.S. medical schools

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BACKGROUND. As the United States becomes more multicultural, physicians face the challenge of providing culturally sensitive and appropriate health care to patients with differing health beliefs and values. While a few schools are providing cultural-sensitivity training in response to the changing patient population, the pervasiveness of such training has not been thoroughly reported. METHOD. In 1991–92, all 126 U.S. medical schools were surveyed regarding their implementation and plans for future implementation of cultural-sensitivity training. The t-test was used to compare data from those schools that offered separate, formal cultural-sensitivity courses with data from the schools that did not offer such courses. RESULTS. Of the 126 schools surveyed, 98 (78%) responded. Only 13 of the responding schools offered cultural-sensitivity courses to their students, and all but one of these courses were optional. These 13 schools reported a greater perceived likelihood that their students would have contact with African-American patients (t = 2.88, p < .05). Despite the few courses offered and the common perception that recent graduates were only “somewhat prepared” to provide culturally sensitive clinical services, only 33 schools were planning to implement new courses. CONCLUSION. The results indicate needs for more cultural-sensitivity training and for further studies to determine the most effective type of training for students.

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