Assessing Asian Medical Students' Readiness for Diversity: Localizing Measures of Cross-Cultural Care Competence

Teach Learn Med. 2020 Nov 12;1-15. doi: 10.1080/10401334.2020.1830097. Online ahead of print.


Phenomenon: There is now broad acceptance that the development of cross-cultural competence (CCC) supports the delivery of appropriate care to diverse groups and is an essential component in medical education worldwide. CCC training in East Asian contexts has been constrained by the fact that "cultural diversity" training globally has focused primarily on the needs of racial and ethnic communities, to the relative neglect of other groups. The present study explores Taiwanese students' perceptions of CCC provision to identify gaps in local medical education and thus facilitate a more systematic delivery of CCC. Approach: Using an adapted and translated version of the Cross-Cultural Care Survey developed by Harvard Medical School, we collected 1567 student responses from four geographically-distributed Taiwanese medical schools between 2015 and 2017. In addition to student responses, we also collected 122 clinical teacher responses from two of the four medical schools that were surveyed to cross-examine the students' self-perceived competence. The data were analyzed with SPSS and ANOVA was employed with student data to compare the differences among different stages. The analysis focuses on CCC in 4 stages of training: general education, basic pre-clinical and integrated clinical sciences, clerkship, and internship. Findings: The findings show that students felt unprepared to deal with health disparities and the needs of diverse groups and there was no evidence of an increased sense of preparedness in the development of relevant skills in the analyses of the pre-clinical to clinical stages of the curriculum. Similarly, teachers also perceived students across the different stages of training to be unprepared in dealing with the health disparities and needs of diverse groups. However, although findings from teachers' responses parallel those from students, teachers tend to perceive students to be even more unprepared than they perceive themselves to be. The training for CCC appeared inadequate from both set of data and students perceive CCC training to be less explicitly evident in the medical program as it advances from the foundation stage to the pre-clinical stage. Insights: The study raises some crucial issues in terms of diversity and CCC training in medical education programs. The fact that increased awareness of health disparities and the needs of diverse groups fails to be aligned with a sense of preparedness and skillfulness confirms that CCC has not been explicitly and sufficiently addressed in the medical curriculum, particularly in the pre-clinical stage when the focus is on acquiring scientific and technical knowledge. This study shows how a questionnaire designed by and for an American medical institution situated in a highly diverse society can be adapted so that its findings serve as a baseline for medical education programs in Taiwan, and perhaps in other countries that are beginning to acknowledge hitherto "hidden" diversity. This study also has implications which indicate that CCC is crucial in the delivery of appropriate care by members of the medical profession to diverse patients.

Keywords: cross-cultural care competence; curriculum; diversity; medical education; medical students.