Examining the pedagogical practices that support cultural proficiency development in graduate health science students

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BMC Medical Education


Background: Health disparities are often a function of systemic discrimination and healthcare providers’ biases. In recognition of this, health science programs have begun to offer training to foster cultural proficiency (CP) in future professionals. However, there is not yet consensus about the best ways to integrate CP into didactic and clinical education, and little is known about the role of clinical rotations in fostering CP. Methods: Here, a mixed-methods approach was used to survey students (n = 131) from a private all-graduate level osteopathic health sciences university to gain insight into the training approaches students encountered related to CP and how these may vary as a function of academic progression. The research survey included instruments designed to quantify students’ implicit associations, beliefs, and experiences related to the CP training they encountered through the use of validated instruments, including Implicit Association Tests and the Ethnocultural Empathy Inventory, and custom-designed questions. Results: The data revealed that most students (73%) had received CP training during graduate school which primarily occurred via discussions, lectures, and readings; however, the duration and students’ perception of the training varied substantially (e.g., training range = 1–100 hours). In addition, while students largely indicated that they valued CP and sought to provide empathetic care to their patients, they also expressed personal understandings of CP that often fell short of advocacy and addressing personal and societal biases. The results further suggested that clinical rotations may help students attenuate implicit biases but did not appear to be synergistic with pre-clinical courses in fostering other CP knowledge, skills, and attitudes. Conclusions: These findings highlight the need to utilize evidence-based pedagogical practices to design intentional, integrated, and holistic CP training throughout health science programs that employ an intersectional lens and empowers learners to serve as advocates for their patients and address systemic challenges.



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