C. Fryer1, G. van Kessel1, S. Edney2
1University of South Australia, UniSA Allied Health and Human Performance, Adelaide, Australia, 2National University of Singapore, Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, Singapore, Singapore

Background: To provide safe and effective health care, physiotherapists must be aware of, and able to appropriately respond to, the individual needs of their clients. Cultural competence is an essential part of the curriculum to prepare physiotherapy students for their graduate practice.

Purpose: The primary aim of this study was to investigate the effectiveness of a four-week educational intervention to increase the perceived cultural competence of undergraduate physiotherapy students and whether effectiveness changed as students progressed in their education. Secondary aims were to understand if a clinical placement prior to the course intervention, or the student’s cultural background, influenced the effectiveness of the intervention.

Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted with 73 students in their second year of an Australian Bachelor of Physiotherapy programme who participated in a four-week tutorial module to develop their cultural competence.   Perception of cultural competence was measured at three time points (pre, post, post 18 months) using the Cultural Intelligence Scale questionnaire which assesses metacognitive, cognitive, motivational, and behavioural domains. Participant and their parents’ country of birth data were collected.

Results: Cultural Intelligence scores for the cohort significantly increased from pre- to post-intervention (p<.001) with a medium effect size (0.56). A three-week clinical placement prior to the teaching intervention had no effect on the change in scores. Students who were not born in Australia, or who had a parent not born in Australia, demonstrated less change in overall Cultural Intelligence score than Australian-born participants. The mean change in Cultural Intelligence scores remained significantly higher than pre-intervention at the 18-month follow-up time-point. 

Conclusion(s): The perceived level of cultural competence of undergraduate physiotherapy students at an Australian university can be increased by their participation in a four-week classroom-based tutorial module, and this effect can be sustained over an 18-month period.  This suggests that further research into the combination of classroom and clinical practice-based teaching would provide further insights in this area of curriculum. Exposure to cultural diversity is not sufficient by itself for a change in perceived cultural competence. However, classroom-based teaching needs to be responsive to the cultural characteristics of the students.

Implications: The self-reported cultural competence of undergraduate physiotherapy students can be increased by a four-week tutorial module. This module can be implemented in an undergraduate physiotherapy curriculum. The module has been delivered in face-to-face and online learning contexts, but the effectiveness of the online delivery of the module for changing perceived cultural competence has not yet been evaluated. A challenge remains to measure the effect of the cultural competence of both therapists and students on patient outcomes.

Funding, acknowledgements: None

Keywords: cultural competence, curriculum, students

Topic: Education: methods of teaching & learning

Did this work require ethics approval? Yes
Institution: University of South Australia
Committee: Human Research Ethics Commmittee
Ethics number: Protocol no. 200218

All authors, affiliations and abstracts have been published as submitted.

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