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Health Professional Students' Cultural Competence and Attitudes toward the Poor: The Influence of a Clinical Practicum Supported by the National Health Service Corps

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To provide quality health care today, practitioners must be culturally competent. Funding sources, such as the federal government, recognize the need to prepare culturally competent clinicians. The mission of the National Health Service Corps (NHSC), a federal program, is to increase access to primary care services and reduce health disparities by assisting in the preparation of community-responsive, culturally competent primary care clinicians. This study evaluated an NHSC program that funded, in part, health professional students' educational programs. Following their participation in an NHSC-supported clinical experience, students were assessed on their cultural competence, perceptions of the poor, and intention of serving in an underserved community. Health professional students completed a survey before and after the clinical practicum. Participants included students who were studying to be physicians, physician assistants, social workers, and nurse practitioners. Results of the study found no change in students' cultural competence after their clinical practicum. Although they remained in the "culturally aware" stage, they were not considered either "culturally proficient" or "culturally competent." However, their attitudes toward those in poverty were more positive than in previous studies of health professionals. The greatest impact from the students' clinical experience was their increased intention to practice in an underserved community following their practicum. They found their experience with the underserved to be rewarding, challenging, and humbling. Documenting the influence that government-funded programs have on health professional students is extremely important in studies such as this.
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Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: 01 March 2005

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  • The Journal of Allied Health is the official publication of the Association of Schools of Allied Health Professions (ASAHP). The Journal is the only interdisciplinary allied health periodical, publishing scholarly works related to research and development, feature articles, research abstracts and book reviews. Readers of the Journal comprise allied health leaders, educators, faculty and students.
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