Patients as Teachers of Cultural Sensitivity in Pharmacy Education

  • Caitlin Gibson University of North Texas System College of Pharmacy
  • Annesha White University of North Texas System College of Pharmacy
Keywords: Cultural Competency, Cultural Sensitivity, Pharmacy Education, Patient Panels


Introduction: Cultural sensitivity training among pharmacy students is required by the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education, but little data exists on effective practices for teaching these concepts. The goal of this case study was to describe the process and determine if integration of a patient-led Cultural Sensitivity Panel into the required didactic curriculum impacts pharmacy student perceptions of their own cultural competence.

Description of case: A special population was defined based on the CAPE competencies requiring students demonstrate sensitivity and responsiveness to culture, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, gender, sexual orientation, spirituality, disability, and other aspects of diversity and identity. Patients representing various special populations, such as veterans, the Deaf and hard of hearing population, the LGBT community, were invited to participate in a Cultural Sensitivity Panel for two consecutive years. Panelists shared information they wish future healthcare professionals understood about the population they represented and participated in a question and answer session. Pre- and post-surveys were conducted to assess the impact of the panel on student perceptions of cultural competence.

Results: Over two years, 138 students completed surveys. More than 95% of students agreed or strongly agreed that a cultural sensitivity panel is a worthwhile experience, and that the panel would help them change behaviors that may be culturally insensitive. Student perceptions of their own cultural competence significantly improved between the pre- and post- surveys; ethnicity, age and gender significantly impacted responses (p<.05). Key themes of responses to open-ended questions included learning about effective communication (64%), new resources for diverse patient populations (28%), addressing barriers to care (21%), the importance of patience and empathy (18%), and incorporating a patient’s background into their care (18%).

Exploration of case impact: Use of a cultural sensitivity panel provides patients with their own voice in discussing barriers to the provision of health care and thus mitigates the inherent bias and limitations of faculty members teaching about cultures and populations they do not represent.

Conclusion: This novel approach of integrating a Cultural Sensitivity Panel into the didactic curriculum positively impacted student perceptions of their own cultural competence and may improve culturally competent provision of care among pharmacy students.


Article Type: Case Study


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Received 2019-03-03
Accepted 2019-08-02
Published 2019-11-08