Purpose: The purpose of this study was to identify the cultural climate of southwestern dental colleges, from the perspective of dental hygiene and dental students.
Methods: The Cultural Attitudes and Climate Questionnaire was used to measure cultural climate. It contained 57 items related to campus experiences, cultural comfort, diversity awareness, racial pressures, fair treatment, respect, lack of support, patient care and overall satisfaction. The survey was administered to 508 dental and dental hygiene students at 5 dental colleges.
Results: The response rate was 41% (n=239/508). Students reported not experiencing racial conflict or pressures (71 to 90%), being treated fairly and with respect (86 to 90%) and being comfortable interacting with and treating other cultures (70 to 91%). They also practiced culturally appropriate behaviors (54 to 92%). Those reporting diversity training (77.8%) were more likely to engage in 3 of the 6 awareness practices (p<0.033). Although all groups agreed their educational experience was rewarding (89.5%), African-Americans reported a significantly lower level of agreement than Whites (p=0.003) and Asians (p=0.008). Among all groups, satisfaction with their educational experience was significantly correlated with fair treatment (rho=0.441 to 0.511, p<0.001) and respect for other cultures (rho=0.391 to 0.441, p<0.001).
Conclusion: The students generally reported a positive cultural climate. Improvements could be made by focusing on fair treatment, respect for cultures and the African-American experience. Cultural competence training could be key to improving cultural climate, as positive outcomes from training were identified.
Keywords: cultural climate, academic success, dental, dental hygiene, diversity, cultural competence, training
This study supports the NDHRA priority area, Health Promotion/ Disease Prevention: Investigate how diversity among populations impacts the promotion of oral health and preventive behaviors.