Creating student awareness to improve cultural competence: creating the critical incident

Med Teach. 2002 Sep;24(5):532-4. doi: 10.1080/0142159021000012577.


Teaching medical students to recognize the need for cultural competence and accept their shortcomings in this area is a challenge. A simulated patient scenario was developed to address this challenge. The objective of the simulation is to enhance students' readiness to learn by moving them from 'unconscious incompetence' to 'conscious incompetence'. The patient scenario presents a Cherokee Indian woman with a complaint of abnormal menstrual bleeding who is resistant to gynaecologic care from male providers. A faculty member facilitates a small-group videotape review of student interviews. As students discuss their encounters, they realize they 'misdiagnose' and mishandle the interview. They are confronted by their inability to recognize cultural cues and the impact they may have on health outcomes and begin to question whether cultural beliefs are affecting the care of other patients. This simulation creates an eye-opening situation that must be handled carefully. This activity is an effective method to create awareness in students who feel they 'know all this stuff.'

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Awareness*
  • Culture*
  • Education, Medical, Undergraduate / methods*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Indians, North American / psychology
  • Medical History Taking
  • Medicine, Traditional
  • Menstruation Disturbances / ethnology
  • Menstruation Disturbances / therapy
  • North Carolina
  • Patient Simulation
  • Physician-Patient Relations*
  • Professional Competence*
  • Students, Medical / psychology*