Factors influencing intercultural competences of hospital workers for multicultural patients in South Korea

Int J Med Educ. 2024 Jun 21:15:66-79. doi: 10.5116/ijme.6667.2270.


Objectives: This study aims to assess the intercultural competence of general hospital workers in South Korea by examining their understanding of cultural diversity in healthcare and to identify factors influencing their intercultural competence.

Methods: A cross-institutional survey was conducted with 439 participants from four South Korean general hospitals, employing inferential statistics such as one-way Analysis of Variance, Mann-Whitney U, and Kruskal-Wallis test followed by post-hoc, and multiple linear regression analyses.

Results: While 85% (n = 362) of participants acknowledged the significance of multiculturalism in Korean society, only 11% (n = 49) felt competent in treating multicultural patients. Additionally, 72% (n = 315) experienced significant linguistic difficulties in medical communication. Multiple regression analysis identified advanced English competency, multicultural training experiences, and peer support with organizational awareness of multicultural importance as significant positive contributors to intercultural competence.

Conclusions: Despite recognizing the importance of multiculturalism, general hospital workers face significant language barriers and low self-efficacy in providing care to multicultural patients. To address these challenges, hospitals should designate resident translators for culturally appropriate communication. Furthermore, a tri-tiered training approach is proposed to enhance the five domains of intercultural competence among general hospital workers in Korea, including overarching multicultural training, occupation-specific courses, and long-term managerial programs aimed at managing cultural diversity effectively in healthcare settings.

Keywords: communication skills; hospital workers; intercultural competence; multicultural patients; professional development.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Attitude of Health Personnel
  • Communication
  • Communication Barriers
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Cultural Competency* / education
  • Cultural Diversity*
  • Female
  • Hospitals, General
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Personnel, Hospital / psychology
  • Republic of Korea
  • Surveys and Questionnaires