Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Comparison of Multicultural Literature in Three Health Professions: Physical Therapy, Nursing & Social Work

Academic journal article Journal of Cultural Diversity

Comparison of Multicultural Literature in Three Health Professions: Physical Therapy, Nursing & Social Work

Article excerpt

Abstract: All health professions' education programs are mandated by their accrediting agencies to include diversity and multicultural content within their curricula. This article reviews literature from the three professions of nursing, social work, and physical therapy that indicates that they accomplish this at different places on the continuum of curricular integration and transformation as identified by Banks. An examination of the complexity of each profession's standards, and a comparison of the depth of cultural competency within each profession is included. Even with the more 'experienced' professions of social work and nursing, there appear to continue to be inconsistencies in the structuring and teaching of multicultural content.

Keywords: Social work, Nursing, Physical Therapy

Diversity is a given in these pluralistic United States where people from a variety of cultural groups and subcultural groupings seek health care. Each consumer has a right to the best health care practices available, and to the same and equal health care services that are offered to every other client. However, culturally competent health care is not a given. Many health care providers are at best, not very skilled or comfortable working with people who are different from themselves, and at worst are openly prejudiced and biased about certain groups of people. The responsibility to change these attitudes and develop cultural competence lies within the educational programs of the various health professions. Zeller (1995) echoes this idea stating, "it is the responsibility of the educational institutions in the United States to nurture cultural sensitivity" (p.9). As an occupational therapy (OT) educator, the author wondered what a selected group of other health professions required within their programs that would help "nurture cultural sensitivity."

The three professions I chose to study were social work, nursing and physical therapy These three were selected because of either their similarity to OT, or because of their close working relationship within the health care team which also includes OT. A literature review was undertaken to learn what each profession included about culture, diversity, or multiculturalism in their curriculum. I also explored what other issues were identified with the above. This paper will identify what is mandated for each profession, and then discuss the major considerations of each with culture.


The education of each health care profession is governed and guided by its own unique set of standards which are developed by a committee of the professional organization. Each educational program uses these standard guidelines to provide a framework for their own individual curricula. Standards reflect the beliefs and values of the profession regarding what information should be shared with students. These standards vary in the details of the content, some providing general statements of educational requirements, and others giving specific curricular instructions. All three of the professions studied include statements regarding culture, diversity or multiculturalism within their standards. Although this may indicate that each of these professions recognizes the diversity inherent within the scope of the profession, and that they value the importance of teaching/learning about diversity, it does not mean that each profession accomplishes this at the same depth or in the same way.

The American Physical Therapy Association (APTA) began formal initiatives to increase cultural diversity in physical therapy education in 1983 (Monahan 1997), yet the 1993 educational standards for physical therapy include general and equivocal statements about diversity such as physical therapy graduates should consider social and cultural factors while collaborating with patients and their families" (Commission on Accreditation in Physical Therapy Education). …

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