Many resident physicians feel unprepared to care for culturally diverse patients

Although most resident physicians responding to a national survey acknowledge the importance of providing care that accommodates the needs of today's diverse patient population, many of them do not feel prepared to address cross-cultural issues they commonly face in practice. Most also report receiving little or no training in providing cross-cultural care during their residencies, and fewer still say they were evaluated on cultural aspects of their patient communication skills. The report from the Massachusetts General Hospital (MGH) Institute for Health Policy appears in the Sept. 7 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

"Residents are getting mixed messages during their training," says Joel S. Weissman, PhD, of the MGH Institute for Health Policy, the study's lead author. "On one hand they recognize that these issues are important, but on the other hand they have little clinical time to address cultural issues, they receive limited instruction and little or no evaluation, and there are too few good role models and mentors." Weissman has studied medical care access problems of the uninsured and racial and ethnic minorities for many years.

Increasing attention has been paid recently to how sociocultural differences between patients and providers can complicate health care leading to poor communication, patient dissatisfaction and reduced quality of care. In the past ten years both the American Medical Association and the Accreditation Council for Graduate Medical Education have issued statements emphasizing the importance of training in cross-cultural care. In 2002 the Institute of Medicine released a report highlighting racial and ethnic disparities disparities in health care and recommending cross-cultural education of health professionals as one method of addressing this crisis. The JAMA paper is the first national study of young physicians' readiness to care for a culturally diverse population.

The research te

Contact: Donita Boddie
Massachusetts General Hospital

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