Improving Cultural Diversity Awareness of Physical Therapy Educators

Article excerpt

Abstract: In a climate of increasing diversity in the population of patients requiring physical therapy (PT) services, PT educators must prepare students and future clinicians to work competently in culturally diverse environments. To be able to achieve this goal, PT educators must be culturally competent as well. The purposes of the study were to develop a valid and reliable instrument to assess cultural diversity awareness and to develop an educational workshop to improve cultural diversity awareness ofPT academic and clinical educators. Phase 1 of the study involved the development of an instrument to assess cultural diversity awareness. The Cultural Diversity Awareness Questionnaire (CDAQ) was developed, validated for content, analyzed for reliability, and field and pilot tested. Results indicated that the CDAQ has favorable psychometric properties. Phase 2 of the study involved the development and implementation of the Cultural Diversity Workshop (CDW). The seminar contents and class materials were developed, validated, and implemented as a one-day cultural diversity awareness seminar. A one-group, pretest-posttest experimental design was used, with participants who completed the CDAQ before and after the workshop. Results indicated that the workshop was effective in improving cultural diversity awareness of the participants. Results of the workshop evaluation affirmed the achievement of objectives and effectiveness of the facilitator. This study provided a solid initial foundation upon which a comprehensive cultural competence program can be developed.

Key Words: Cultural Diversity, Cultural Awareness, Diversity Workshop, Educators, Physical Therapy

Educators of future professionals who will serve the needs of an increasingly culturally diverse society are faced with the challenge of preparing future practitioners who are able to provide culturally competent care. In the United States, the Commission on Accreditation of Physical Therapy Education (CAPTE), which is the profession's main accrediting body, has specified in its evaluative criteria that physical therapy program graduates must be prepared to demonstrate cultural competence including the ability to "identify, respect, and act with consideration for patients' /clients' differences, values, preferences, and expressed needs in all professional activities" (CAPTE, 2006, p. B-29). Therefore, it is imperative for academic and clinical educators not only to demonstrate expertise in a subject matter or specific practice area but (also) to be competent in dealing with issues pertaining to cultural diversity in health care. They must be prepared to discuss issues such as cultural identity, therapist-patient roles, ethics,.beliefs, practices, acceptable interventions, family structure, and intercultural communication (Babyar et al., 1996).

The lack of awareness regarding cultural issues provides a risk for the perpetuation of cultural stereotypes and misconceptions. For example, an educator's health provider culture, which mayTbe deeply rooted in the Western medicine approach to patient management, may potentially impart cultural information or strategies for dealing with diverse populations that are inaccurate or inappropriate. Cultural perceptions may play a key role in establishing working relationships with colleagues, students, and patients. In order to prevent the continuation of cultural misconception and stereotypes, educators must seek out ways to become culturally aware and culturally competent.

A comprehensive cultural competence program should start with the achievement of cultural awareness (Purnell & Paulanka, 2003a). Cultural awareness enables educators to gain information regarding people who are different from themselves. It also allows them to recognize their own values, beliefs, and behaviors as well as to understand how these impact others. It explores issues such as ethnocentricities, stereotypes, biases, and prejudices. …