Background: Attempts to address health and health care disparities in the United States have led to a renewed focus on the training of healthcare professionals including physical therapists. Current health care policies emphasize culturally competent care as a means of promoting equity in care delivery by health care professionals. Experts agree that cultural insensitivity has a negative association with health professionals’ ability to provide quality care.

Objective: To evaluate the cultural awareness and sensitivity of physical therapy (PT) students in a didactic curriculum aimed to increase cultural awareness.

Methods: Using the Multicultural Sensitivity Scale (MSS), a cross-sectional survey was conducted to assess cultural sensitivity among three groups of students, (N = 139) from a doctor of physical therapy (DPT) program at a liberal arts university in Saint Louis, MO.

Results: Response rate was 76.3%. Participants (n=100) were students in first (DPT1, n=36), third (DPT3, n=36), and sixth (DPT6, n=28) year of the program. Mean ranked MSS score was DPT1 = 45.53, DPT3 = 46.60 DPT6 = 61.91. Kruskal-Wallis analysis of the mean ranked scores showed a significant difference among three groups, H = 6.05 (2, N=100), p ≤ .05.

Discussion: Students who have completed the cultural awareness curriculum, and undergone clinical experiences rated themselves higher on the cultural sensitivity/awareness. Results provide initial evidence that experiential learning opportunities may help PT students to more effectively integrate knowledge from classroom activities designed to facilitate cultural competence.

Author Bio(s)

Dr. Olaide Oluwole-Sangoseni, PT, PhD, DPT, MSc,GCS is an Assistant Professor of physical therapy at Maryville University of Saint Louis, Missouri. She is also a licensed physical therapist in the state of Missouri.

Dr. Michelle Unterberg, PT, DHS, is an Associate Professor of physical therapy and Assistant Dean of College of Health Sciences at Maryville University of Saint Louis, Missouri. She is also a licensed physical therapist in the state of Missouri.


We acknowledge Sandy Ross, PT, DPT, MHS, PCS for her review contributions and the physical therapy students at Maryville University of Saint Louis for their participation.





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