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Resident physicians report that training often not adequate to treat patients from other cultures

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, according to an article in the September 7 issue of JAMA, a theme issue on medical education.

Sociocultural 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 sociocultural 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.

Joel S. Weissman, Ph.D., of Massachusetts General Hospital, Boston, and colleagues 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. The number of respondents who indicated that they believed they were not prepared to care for diverse cultures in a general sense was only 8 percent. However, a larger percentage of respondents believed they were
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Contact: Donita Bodie
617-724-5627
JAMA and Archives Journals
6-Sep-2005


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