Surgeons’ Perceptions Toward Providing Care for Diverse Patients: The Need for Cultural Dexterity Training

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Abstract

Objective:

We sought to understand the experiences of surgical residents and faculty with treating culturally diverse patients, and identify recommendations for establishing and implementing structured cultural competency training.

Summary Background Data:

Cultural competency training for medical professionals could reduce healthcare disparities, yet is currently not a standard part of surgical residency training. Few studies have explored the perspectives of surgical residents and faculty on the skills needed to provide cross-cultural care.

Study Design:

A purposeful sample of surgical residents and faculty from 4 academic institutions was recruited for semistructured qualitative interviews. We developed an in-depth interview guide and performed interviews to thematic saturation. Interviews were audio-recorded, transcribed, and analyzed using grounded theory methodology.

Results:

We interviewed 16 attending surgeons and 15 surgical residents. Participant demographics were: male (51.6%), White (58.1%), Black (9.7%), Asian (22.5%), and Hispanic (9.7%). Four main themes emerged from the data: 1) aspects of culture that can inform patient care; 2) specific cultural challenges related to surgical care, including informed consent, pain management, difficult diagnoses and refusal of treatment, emergency situations, and end-of-life issues; 3) need for culturally competent care in surgery to navigate cultural differences; 4) perceived challenges and facilitators to incorporating cultural competency into the current training paradigm.

Conclusions:

Surgeons identified the need to provide better cross-cultural care and proposed tenets for training. Based on these findings, we suggest the development and dissemination of a cultural dexterity training program that will provide surgeons with specific knowledge and skills to care for patients from diverse sociocultural backgrounds.

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