Research shows that resident physicians are often less prepared to treat patients from different cultures, especially those with practices that differ from certain medical practices .
According to an article in the September issue of JAMA, many resident physicians report a lack of preparedness in caring for patients with specific cultural characteristics, such as those who have beliefs or practices at odds with Western medicine.
Socio-cultural differences between patients and physicians influence communication and clinical decision making, and there is evidence that patient-physician communication is directly linked to patient satisfaction, adherence, and overall quality of care, according to background information in the article. Unexplored or misunderstood socio-cultural differences between patients and physicians can lead to patient dissatisfaction, poor adherence to treatment, and poor health outcomes. In an effort to provide health care professionals with the knowledge and skills to effectively care for diverse populations, an educational movement in "cross-cultural care" has emerged. Little has been known about residents' educational experience in this area.
Researchers from Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, had conducted a study to assess the self-perceived preparedness of resident physicians to provide quality care to diverse patient populations and to determine whether they reported receiving formal training and evaluation in cross-cultural care during their residency. To accomplish this, surveys were mailed in 2003 to approximately 3,500 residents in 7 specialties in their final year of training at major U.S. teaching hospitals.
Responses were obtained from 60 percent (2,047) of the sample. Virtually all (96 percent) of the residents indicated that it was moderately or very important to address cultural issues when providing care. Approximately one-third to half of the respondents reported receiving little or no instruction in specific areas of cross-cultural care beyond what was learned in medical school. Forty-one percent (family medicine) to 83 percent (surgery and obstetrics/gynecology) of respondents reported receiving little or no evaluation in cross-cultural care during their residencies. Barriers to delivering cross-cultural care included lack of time (58 percent) and lack of role models (31 percent).