MANUSCRIPT: Responding to a changing nation: are faculty prepared for cross-cultural conversations and care?
BACKGROUND AND OBJECTIVES:
The United States is becoming increasingly diverse. Health disparities continue with little improvement despite national policies and standards. Medical institutions are modifying their curricula; however, little is known about faculty attitudes and comfort in addressing cultural issues. The purpose of this study was to determine faculty attitudes, self-perceived levels of comfort and skill, and future knowledge needs pertaining to cultural competence.
A survey was administered to all clinical faculty at the University of Virginia School of Medicine. Survey questions addressed faculty attitudes and self-perceived levels of comfort and skill in dealing with cultural issues, as well as perceived need and interest in future cultural competence training.
When considering each phase of education (medical school, residency, continuing medical education [CME]), fewer than 25% of the respondents reported receiving formal instruction in cultural competency in any given phase, although 93% felt that cultural competency training was important. Fifty-eight percent felt “very comfortable” caring for diverse patients, although this dropped to 30% when specifying limited English proficiency. The situation in which the highest percentage of respondents felt “not particularly comfortable” or “not at all comfortable” was breaking bad news to a patient’s family first if this was more culturally appropriate (47%). Respondents felt most skilled in working with medical interpreters, apologizing for cross-cultural misunderstandings, and eliciting the patients’ perspectives about their health and illness. Respondents felt the least skilled providing culturally sensitive end-of-life care and dealing with cross-cultural conflicts.
Clinical faculty have received limited instruction on cultural competency, and the reported levels of comfort and skill in many challenging areas of multicultural health leave much room for improvement. Until faculty become more comfortable and are able to model and teach these behaviors to learners, positive responses to national policies in culturally competent care are likely to be limited.