Theses Doctoral

Physician Assistant Students' Perceptions of Cultural Competence in Providing Care to Diverse Patient Populations

Sherer, Erin

Cultural competency training in physician assistant (PA) education may improve patient care outcomes and help reduce health disparities. Research suggests that incorporating cross-cultural communication techniques into healthcare delivery improves provider-patient relationships, patient satisfaction, adherence to treatment, and health outcomes. While PA accreditation standards include mandatory elements regarding cultural competency training of PA students, there is little research on how PA students feel about the effectiveness of this training. This study focused on determining PA students’ perceived levels of preparedness to treat patients of culturally diverse backgrounds. Specifically, the study evaluated PA students’ knowledge, skills, encounters, attitudes, awareness, and abilities regarding cultural competence, as well as students’ evaluations of these components of their education.
The study utilized an online cross-sectional questionnaire with quantitative and qualitative components to 239 PA student respondents across eight American professional preparation programs in higher education institutions. The survey used a modified version of the previously validated Self-Assessment of Perceived Level of Cultural Competence Questionnaire (SAPLCC). Descriptive statistics were measured using SPSS software (v. 24). Independent sample t-tests identified significant differences in subscale scores between race and academic year. Qualitative data were hand-coded for common themes.
Overall, findings showed that PA students rated their attitudes, awareness, and abilities about cultural competence as significantly greater than their knowledge, skills, and encounters. Specific areas of identified weaknesses in cultural competency education included: knowledge regarding the cultural context of care; skills associated with managing cross-cultural clinical challenges; and encounters related to coping with aggressiveness and bias. Further analysis indicated that second-year students and non-Caucasian students reported higher personal ratings for levels of cultural competence.
Qualitative data provided further insight into students’ levels of preparedness, indicating that most surveyed PA students felt well prepared (39%) or moderately prepared (46%), rather than those who did not feel at all prepared (15%). Students indicated that specific classes focusing on cultural topics, discussions about cultural issues, and clinical experiences were the most useful for promoting cross-cultural education. Future investigation might explore the effectiveness of standardized approaches to training, how student perceptions align with actual care outcomes, or examine how diversity within PA programs impacts students’ preparedness to provide cross-cultural care.


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Health and Behavior Studies
Thesis Advisors
Allegrante, John P.
Rajan, Sonali
Ed.D., Teachers College, Columbia University
Published Here
June 10, 2018