HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Creighton University School of Law

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Residents Say They Are Not Prepared For Cultural Difference In Medical Practice

According to the LA Times, many resident physicians are reporting that they are unprepared to adequately communicate with people who are culturally different from themselves.  In a survey done by Dr. Joel Weissman, one in four doctors responding to the survey said they felt ill prepared to cope with patients who held health beliefs at odds with Western medicine or were recent immigrants. He reports in his article in the Journal of the American Medical Association that another 20% said they were not well versed in addressing patients whose religious beliefs affected their care.  The residents say they are inadequately trained to cope with increasingly diverse pouplations.  According to the survey, about half the doctors had little or no training in providing culturally competent care.  The residents acknowledged needing better training to understand the cultural, ethnic, and racial and religious differences they encounter as well as a better understanding of how to address patients from different culutres, identify patient mistrust and understand religious and cultural customs.  According to Newsday, Dr. Joel Weissman, an associate professor of healthcare policy at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston, says that "in terms of successfully providing cross-cultural care, the weight is on the medical establishment to provide training."  The survey included more than 2,000 resident physicians and assessed opinions about healthcare delivery to patients who may not speak English, may be socioculturally different from the doctor, or may have religious practices that are foreign to the treating physician.   Dr. Weissman emphasizes that his study "is the first, to our knowledge, to obtain a national estimate of the readiness of new physcians to deliver high-quality care to culturally diverse populations." 

His research was partially funded by a grant from the Commonwealth Fund in Manhattan, a nonprofit group whose mission is improving the quality of care for low-income and uninsured people and members of minority groups by supproting reserach spotlighting critical issues. 

Thanks to Lindley Bain for help with this post.  [tm]

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