An Innovative International Learning Experience - Cultivating Cultural Competency and Interprofessional Teamwork
Cultural competency and inter-professionalism in healthcare are two important concepts in physical and occupational therapy education.1-3 Cultural competence includes both awareness and knowledge.2 The World Health Organization defines interprofessional education as an experience when two or more professions learn about and from each other in order to collaborate to improve patient/client services.4 There are a variety of international learning opportunities for students in health professions.5-6 The purpose of this study is to examine the impact of an innovative international learning experience on self-reported cultural competency and interprofessional collaboration.
An interprofessional course was launched by New York University OT and PT faculty in Shanghai, China. Over a 13-day period, students had daily lectures on Chinese culture, health beliefs, and political system, and educational and social services for individuals with disabilities. Students visited schools for children with special needs, hospitals with both traditional Chinese and Western medicine, a rehabilitation center, and a sheltered workshop and supportive employment agencies. Students participated in Tai Chi and meditation classes. Students were intentionally assigned to interprofessional teams to work on three hypothetical patients incorporating information learned. Students were instructed to include different professional perspectives while working on their case. Each team made a presentation on the last day of the course. In addition, each student submitted a reflection paper.
A total of 25 graduate students enrolled in the course (5 PT, 16 OT, 1 Social Work, 1 Music Therapy, and 1 Public Policy) in summer 2017 and 2018. Outcomes of the course were obtained by studentsÕ course evaluation and reflection papers one month after the completion of the course. Seventeen students completed the course evaluation and scored the course very positively (4.9/5.) Students reported a higher level of cultural competency, and a better appreciation for teamwork, communication, and respect for other disciplines. All 25 students submitted reflection papers. The most common theme was a better understanding and appreciation of Chinese culture, traditional Chinese medicine, and health beliefs. Students also expressed personal and professional growth resulting from this learning experience. One student commented that ÒAs a future clinician, I endeavor to be open and accepting of people from all different cultures and to treat each patient with equal care and thoughtfulness.Ó
Conclusions/Relevance to the conference theme:
This paper relates to the conference theme - Improving patient experience through educational strategies (developing culturally competent physical therapy work force). By immersing students in Chinese culture, students reported a higher level of cultural competency. Additionally, this learning experience led all professional students to better understand each otherÕs discipline and was particularly impactful to physical and occupational therapy students.