Diversity training helps docs provide culturally aware care

News Archive

Diversity training helps docs provide culturally aware care

Study of Seattle-area oncology surgeons was spurred by poorer health outcomes among minority patient populations
Elizabeth Hunter-Keller

Diversity training was the most important contributor to improving oncology surgeons’ ability to provide “culturally congruent” patient care, according to a University of Washington-led study published Jan. 15 in the Journal of Oncology Practice

The study aimed to explore the attributes of surgeons that provide care that recognizes and respects each patient's values, beliefs, traditions, practices and lifestyle. 

Racial and ethnic minority populations have almost universally worse cancer outcomes than Caucasians. Several studies examining these outcomes have shown that people from minority populations may delay or decline treatment based on their perception of an insensitive or apathetic healthcare provider.  

“This study demonstrated the efficacy of cultural diversity training on surgeons’ provision of culturally congruent care,” said lead author Ardith Doorenbos.
picture of Ardith Doorenbos, UW professor of nursing

“Appropriate care across cultures (or races) can only occur when patient/family/community needs, wants, and expectations are aligned with clinician knowledge, attitude, and skills. Such culturally congruent care is an essential component of quality care,” wrote Ardith Doorenbos, UW professor of nursing and the study's lead author.

Using a questionnaire to gauge characteristics of that care, researchers surveyed 253 surgeons from six hospitals in Washington's Puget Sound region. Questions involved cultural competence, knowledge, attitudes and behaviors

“Culturally congruent providers include family members in healthcare decisions when requested by the patient, and ask patients to describe their own understanding of health and illness,” Doorenbos said. “They avoid generalizations to stereotype groups of people.” 

The surgeons scored highly in cultural awareness and sensitivity. Notably, more than half of respondents were found to have completed cultural diversity training prior to the survey, demonstrating its value. 

That finding is meaningful because the Joint Commission, the accreditation body for U.S. healthcare organizations, specifies providers’ obligation to deliver such care. Healthcare organizations now have evidence-based rationale to require diversity training for their staffs, Doorenbos said.

The Puget Sound region is home to large minority populations of Native American and Alaska Natives. A recent article in the American Journal of Public Health indicated that overall cancer mortality increased significantly in those populations between 1999 and 2009, while the same rates declines significantly for white men during the same period. This demonstrates a need for culturally congruent care in treating vulnerable populations, Doorenbos said. 

The study was funded by the National Cancer Institute of the National Institutes of Health (P50 CA148110). 

Study contributors included Drs. Arden Morris of the University of Michigan, Emily Haozous of the University of New Mexico, and Heather Harris and David Flum of the University of Washington.