Using a competition to develop culturally competent practitioners

This week we continue our series on innovation in electives by profiling the “Cultural Competency Case Competition,” which is overseen by Oscar Garza, Ph.D. and Olihe Okoro, Ph.D.

Building the Course

The United States is a melting pot of diverse populations with varied healthcare needs. As the US population continues to become more diverse, it’s important for healthcare providers, such as pharmacists, to focus patient care on an individual’s needs not their characteristics. According to Dr. Garza, “It’s about focusing on the individual, one patient at a time. Creating personalized care plans and respecting an individual’s diverse background and health beliefs.”

Oscar Garza

Several years ago, the faculty noticed a gap in cultural competent care (CCC) in the curriculum. Students learned knowledge and concepts in their required courses, such as “Applied Pharmaceutical Care”, but they didn’t see the concrete application of these concepts. The original idea and method of delivery for the elective was developed by Dr. Nwamaka Nwachukwu, who was a student in the Leadership Emphasis Area (LEA) program at the time. As part of the LEA program, she developed the vision and convened others to begin the work. Under the guidance of Drs. Garza and Okoro, the CLARION competition was examined and modified to create a cultural competency competition for pharmacy students.

Olihe Okoro

The competition addresses CCC by using the pharmaceutical care models and focusing on diverse, underserved and cultural minority populations. Cases are written and adapted from a CME-approved text on achieving cultural competency in providers. Student pharmacists form teams of three to four of varying years (i.e. P1 to P4) and solved cases based on competition guidelines. Each team is video-recorded presenting their response and a rubric is used to evaluate performance with a prize awarded to the best team. Students can earn elective credit by participating and writing a short reflection paper on their experiences, or they can earn honors credit by participating and writing a larger paper based on a research idea that they obtained from their experiences. This element of receiving credit makes the cultural competency competition especially unique from the CLARION.

According to Dr. Garza, “The competition [gives] students an opportunity to ‘learn by doing’ in a safe environment. [It is] a way for students to broaden their abilities to apply their clinical and soft skills and build empathy as future providers.” Challenges associated with the competition are two-fold: gaining buy-in from students that cultural competence is an important topic in practice, and being able to move beyond the simulated experience. The faculty advisers are continuously looking at ways to further expand their evaluation of this course and attempting to build evidence that a cultural competence APPE is a viable option for student pharmacists in their fourth year.

The Innovations

This course has innovated and advanced education in a number of ways. First, it was deliberately positioned to address a gap in the curriculum–the opportunity for application. Second, it used experience with an existing program to create a unique format and forum for learning CCC–a competition. Third, it was student designed and continues to be student-led. One of the most significant benefits from the CCC has been how inspired the students were at the end of the competition to continue to work towards developing cultural competence. After the first offering, student champions/leaders were designated from the Multicultural Pharmacy Student Organization (MPSO) to lead the competition in subsequent years, continuing the efforts in helping fellow peers become culturally competent practitioners. Now in year three, the elective lives on and thrives!