How much is needed? Patient exposure and curricular education on medical students' LGBT cultural competency

BMC Med Educ. 2020 Dec 4;20(1):490. doi: 10.1186/s12909-020-02381-1.


Background: For medical students, providing exposure to and education about the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) patient population are effective methods to increase comfort, knowledge, and confidence in caring for LGBT people. However, specific recommendations on the number of patient exposures and educational hours that relate to high LGBT cultural competency are lacking.

Methods: Medical students (N = 940) at three universities across the United States completed a survey consisting of demographics, experiential variables (i.e., number of LGBT patients and LGBT hours), and the 7-point Likert LGBT-Development of Clinical Skills Scale (LGBT-DOCSS). LGBT-DOCSS scores were stratified by 1-point increments, and experiential variable means were computed per each stratification to characterize the mean LGBT patients and hours of medical students with higher scores and those with lower scores.

Results: Medical students reported caring for some LGBT patients annually (M = 6.02, SD = 20.33) and receiving a low number of annual LGBT curricular hours (M = 2.22, SD = 2.85) and moderate number of annual LGBT extracurricular hours (M = 6.93, SD = 24.97). They also reported very high attitudinal awareness (M = 6.54, SD = 0.86), moderate knowledge (M = 5.73, SD = 1.01), and low clinical preparedness (M = 3.82, SD = 1.25). Medical students who cared for 35 or more LGBT patients and received 35 or more LGBT total hours reported significantly higher preparedness and knowledge.

Conclusions: Medical students have shortcomings in LGBT cultural competency and limited LGBT patient exposure and education. To improve LGBT cultural competency, medical schools and accrediting bodies should consider providing medical students with at least a total of 35 LGBT patient contacts and 35 LGBT education hours (10 h of required curricular education and 25 h of supplemental education).

Keywords: Attitudes; Cultural competency; Knowledge; LGBT; Medical education; Patients; Preparedness; Student.