Title of Work

Using Spiral Learning to Integrate Cultural Competency Training into a Medical Curriculum

Document Type

Unpublished Paper

Publication/Presentation Date

February 2020


ProblemThere is growing consensus among medical education programs that training to advance cultural awareness and diversity is necessary for effective patient communication and care.Fewprograms go beyond one-time seminars or single term courses, which could limit long-term integration of training by students in their careers. ApproachSince 2012, the St. Catherine University Master of Physician Assistant Studies (MPAS) program’s entire 28-month curriculum has integrated critical thinking and cultural fluency skills through iterative curricular and co-curricular activities. The activities have built upon each other, reinforcing previous learning. Throughout, faculty and staff have been involved, helping students reflect, learn, and grow. This longitudinal approach has allowed students to establish a foundation, build and enforce it, and confidently apply it to professional practice. OutcomesOver seven years, approximately 210 students from St. Catherine University’s MPAS program have participated in this curriculum. Subsequently, many of them have provided qualitative and quantitative feedback. Narrative reflections, graduate interviews, and post-graduate surveys have shown the impact of the training on the student, graduate, and clinician. Eighteen-month post-graduate data revealed that practicing PAs who graduated from our program feel that the curriculum enhanced their understanding of cultural competency and improved their practice.Next stepsFuture plans include capturing pre and post data to better measure change and retention of cultural competency from baseline. Secondly, the authors posit that this multi-faceted and flexible approach allows it to be adaptable to other medical programs.

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