International Placements Increase the Cultural Sensitivity and Competency of Professional Health Students: A Quantitative and Qualitative Study

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Background and Purpose.Effective health care requires cultural sensitivity and cultural competency, which are vital aspects of a health professional's background. The purpose of this study was to investigate if a difference occurs in cultural sensitivity pre- and post-international clinical placement. Participants. Seventeen final-year health professions students were recruited from Curtin University of Technology for this study.Methods.Participants attended a 4-week placement in China or India. Social demographic information included previous intercultural experience, prior language study, and intercultural friendship. The Intercultural Development Inventory (IDI) measured cultural sensitivity preand post-placement and was analysed using the paired sample t test. Experiences and reflections of participants were obtained using a guided learning journal; qualitative data were analysed using a phenomenological approach.Results.Overall IDI developmental scores (mean -4.31, 95% CI -9.55 to 0.93) and individual scale scores increased but did not reach statistical significance except for the Acceptance/Adaptation scale (mean -0.34, 95% CI -0.63 to -0.04). Five themes emerged from qualitative analysis suggesting development of cultural sensitivity: increased vigilance and adaptation to environment, uncertainty and anticipation, grappling with supremacy, recognizing and appreciating differences, and cultural immersion and development.Discussion and Conclusion.International placements increase the cultural sensitivity and competency of health professions students. Future studies should explore variables that will further enhance these cultural attributes in health professionals.

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