Cultural competence training for health care professionals

Cultural competence training for health care professionals focuses on skills and knowledge to value diversity, understand and respond to cultural differences, and increase awareness of providers’ and care organization’s cultural norms. Trainings can provide facts about patient cultures or include more complex interventions such as intercultural communication skills training, exploration of potential barriers to care, and institution of policies that are sensitive to the needs of patients from culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) backgrounds (). 

Expected Beneficial Outcomes (Rated)

  • Increased cultural understanding and skills

Other Potential Beneficial Outcomes

  • Increased patient satisfaction

  • Improved adherence to treatment

  • Improved health outcomes

Evidence of Effectiveness

There is strong evidence that cultural competence training for health care professionals improves providers’ knowledge, understanding, and skills for treating patients from culturally, linguistically, and socio-economically diverse backgrounds (Truong 2014, Renzaho 2013, Like 2011, ). Additional evidence is needed to determine effects on patient care and health outcomes (, Truong 2014, Like 2011).

Cultural competence training can improve patient satisfaction (Truong 2014, Renzaho 2013, Like 2011). In some circumstances, patients whose providers completed training report better opinions of their clinicians or participate longer in mental health counseling than patients whose providers did not (). In a Massachusetts-based study, cultural competence training increased provider awareness of racial disparities in diabetes care (Like 2011).

When preparing cultural competence trainings, experts recommend that designers consider an organization’s strengths and weaknesses and the particular needs of its patients (Truong 2014). Experts also suggest connecting cultural competency to professional values rather than legal or organizational requirements, fostering a safe and respectful learning environment, cultivating cultural humility, and avoiding stereotypes throughout the training (Like 2011).

Experts suggest that making plans and systems changes to accommodate patient culture, in conjunction with cultural competence training, may improve patient outcomes (Truong 2014).

Impact on Disparities

Likely to decrease disparities

Implementation Examples

Washington, California, Connecticut, New Jersey, and New Mexico require cultural competence training for health professionals (US DHHS-Think cultural health). New Jersey also requires such training for medical school graduation and continuing medical education for physicians and podiatrists (Like 2011).

The federal Office of Minority Health offers cultural competence training resources and publishes the National Culturally and Linguistically Appropriate Services (CLAS) standards. American medical schools also have cultural competence accreditation requirements (Like 2011).

Implementation Resources

US DHHS-Think cultural health - U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (US DHHS). Think cultural health.

US DHHS-Cultural competence - US Department of Health and Human Services (US DHHS). Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA). Culture, language and health literacy.

AAMC-TACCT - Association of American Medical Colleges (AAMC). Tool for assessing cultural competence training (TACCT).

AHRQ-CCT CA - Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality (AHRQ). State legislation requires inclusion of cultural and linguistic competence in continuing medical education, increasing acceptance of their importance by educational programs and clinicians. Rockville: AHRQ Agency Healthcare Innovations Exchange.

Citations - Evidence

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

Cochrane-Horvat 2014* - Horvat L, Horey D, Romios P, Kis-Rigo J. Cultural competence education for health professionals: Review. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. 2014;(5):CD009405.

Renzaho 2013 - Renzaho AMN, Romios P, Crock C, Sønderlund AL. The effectiveness of cultural competence programs in ethnic minority patient-centered health care — a systematic review of the literature. International Journal for Quality in Health Care. 2013;25(3):261–269.

Like 2011 - Like RC. Educating clinicians about cultural competence and disparities in health and health care. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. 2011;31(3):196-206.

Truong 2014 - Truong M, Paradies Y, Priest N. Interventions to improve cultural competency in healthcare: A systematic review of reviews. BMC Health Services Research. 2014;14(1):99.

Clifford 2015* - Clifford A, McCalman J, Bainbridge R, Tsey K. Interventions to improve cultural competency in health care for Indigenous peoples of Australia, New Zealand, Canada and the USA: a systematic review. International Journal for Quality in Health Care. 2015;27(2):89-98.

Gallagher 2015* - Gallagher RW, Polanin JR. A meta-analysis of educational interventions designed to enhance cultural competence in professional nurses and nursing students. Nurse Education Today. 2015;35(2):333-40.

Citations - Implementation Examples

* Journal subscription may be required for access.

US DHHS-Think cultural health - U.S. Department of Health & Human Services (US DHHS). Think cultural health.

Like 2011 - Like RC. Educating clinicians about cultural competence and disparities in health and health care. Journal of Continuing Education in the Health Professions. 2011;31(3):196-206.

Date Last Updated

Nov 19, 2015