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Report Examines Medical Students' Perceived Readiness To Treat Diverse Patients

"Resident Physicians' Preparedness To Provide Cross-Cultural Care: Implications for Clinical Care and Medical Education Policy," Commonwealth Fund: While 70% of medical residents said they believe it is "very important" to deliver culturally sensitive care, many said they did not feel prepared to care for patients with specific cultural characteristics, according to the report, by Joseph Betancourt, director of the Disparities Solutions Center at Massachusetts General Hospital; Joel Weissman, an associate professor of medicine at the Institute for Health Policy at the hospital; Minah Kim, assistant professor of public administration at Ewha Womans University; and colleagues.

The researchers used a 2003 survey of 2,047 medical residents from various specialties and of many races and ethnicities. According to the survey, less than half of residents said they were "well prepared" or "very well prepared" in a general sense to care for patients from diverse cultures or who were racial or ethnic minorities.

Many residents also said they were not prepared to deal with specific characteristics of diverse patients, including those who mistrust the U.S. health system or who have cultural or religious beliefs at odds with Western medicine. In addition, many residents cited obstacles to providing cross-cultural care, including a lack of time, lack of language-appropriate written materials, inadequate access to interpreters and lack of experience in treating such patients.

Researchers recommend that cross-cultural curricula be integrated into all graduate medical education, including developing communication skills and how to use an interpreter (Betancourt et al., "Resident Physicians' Preparedness To Provide Cross-Cultural Care: Implications for Clinical Care and Medical Education Policy,"


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