Efforts to characterize healthcare professional students’ lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) cultural competency are necessary to recommend educational initiatives. Very few studies have evaluated LGBT cultural competency across multiple healthcare disciplines, and no known studies have included students of other healthcare disciplines such as occupational therapy, pharmacy, physical therapy, and physician assistant.
Healthcare professional students (N = 1701) at three universities across the United States completed a survey consisting of demographics, experiential variables (i.e., LGBT patients and LGBT curricular hours), and the 7-point Likert LGBT-Development of Clinical Skills Scale (LGBT-DOCSS). LGBT-DOCSS scores, annual LGBT patients, and annual LGBT curricular hours were compared across healthcare disciplines.
While students reported very high Attitudinal Awareness (M = 6.48, SD = 0.92), they endorsed moderate Basic Knowledge (M = 5.54, SD = 1.16) and low Clinical Preparedness (M = 3.78, SD = 1.28). After controlling for several demographic and experiential variables, there were significant differences among healthcare disciplines on LGBT-DOCSS scores, with social work students reporting the highest on all scores, and dental students reporting the lowest on all scores except Clinical Preparedness. There were also significant differences among healthcare disciplines on annual LGBT patients [mean range: 0.57 (dental) to 7.59 (physician assistant)] and annual LGBT curricular hours [mean range: 0.51 (occupational therapy) to 5.64 (social work)]. Experiential variables were significant predictors for Overall LGBT-DOCSS, Clinical Preparedness, and Basic Knowledge (all p < 0.001); LGBT patients was also a significant predictor for Attitudinal Awareness (p < 0.05).
Taken together, significant differences in LGBT cultural competency exist across healthcare disciplines, which may result from inadequate experiences with LGBT patients and LGBT curricular education. Future efforts should consider increasing LGBT patient contact hours and LGBT formal education hours to enhance healthcare students’ LGBT cultural competency.