Purpose: Dental hygiene students should prepare to competently provide services to culturally diverse patients; therefore, this study was conducted as a baseline to determine the cross-cultural adaptability of dental hygiene students.
Methods: The sample consisted of 188 dental hygiene students attending four culturally diverse dental hygiene programs (N = 108) and four non-culturally diverse dental hygiene programs (N = 80). The culturally diverse programs randomly selected were located in the southwest, southeast and mid-Atlantic regions of the U.S., and the non-diverse programs were located in the northwest, northcentral, central, and southern regions of the U.S. Any dental hygiene program with students representing four of the five ethnic categories (Caucasian, African American, Hispanic/Latino, American Indian/Alaska Native, and Asian/Pacific Islander) with a culturally diverse student enrollment of 40% or greater, was considered a culturally diverse program; any dental hygiene program enrolling students from only one ethnic category was considered a non-culturally diverse program. Participating students completed the Cross-Cultural Adaptability Inventory (CCAI), a 50 item instrument that measures and individual's cultural adaptability and its four research dimensions; emotional resilience, flexibility/openness, perpetual acuity, and personal autonomy. The instrument does not target one particular cultural, rather it is culture general, meaning the inventory is proficient in assessing all cultures.
Results: The unpaired t-test revealed a statistically significant difference, at the 0.05 level, in the overall, emotional resilience, flexibility/openness, and perceptual acuity between the two dental hygiene groups. Data analyses revealed the overall score of the dental hygiene students was lower than the CCAI norm group, which consisted of individuals with cross-cultural experience. The culturally diverse group scored higher than the non-diverse group in emotional resilience but scored lower than the non-diverse group in flexibility/openness and perpetual acuity. There was no statistically significant difference between the culturally diverse and non-culturally diverse groups in the dimension of personal autonomy.
Conclusion: Results of the study led to the conclusion that dental hygiene students attending culturally diverse and non-culturally diverse programs possess some qualities such as personal autonomy and self-identity needed for cultural adaptability. The overall CCAI scores were lower than the CCAI norm group suggesting students need cross-cultural education and training. For this reason, it is important that dental hygiene curricula incorporate cross-cultural educational strategies and peer and patient cross-cultural encounters to enable students to develop competency in providing cross-cultural health care.