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Cultural competence isn't a destination; it's a journey that never stops.

The physical therapy profession's transformative power is magnified through a commitment to promoting and practicing a high level of cultural competence in all areas of practice, research, and education. It's the key to our future as relevant health care providers.

Far from being a limited set of prescribed skills, cultural competence is more holistic—"a set of congruent behaviors, attitudes, and policies that come together in a system, agency, or among professionals that enables work in cross-cultural situations," according to the CDC. Those cross-cultural situations aren't limited to race or ethnicity—they can also include language, religion, age, gender identification and much more.

While a major component of the cultural competence journey involves understanding and appreciating differences, working toward those "congruent behaviors" also requires individuals to take an honest look at themselves, their own biases, and how those biases may affect the care they provide patients—and the ways they see the world around them.  Working toward greater cultural competence demands a willingness to learn and an openness to possibility.

Recommended Content

Achieving Cultural Competence

Jan 15, 2020 / Open Access

Resources for Teaching Cultural Competence in Physical Therapy Education

Oct 6, 2020 / Resource

Cultural Competence Policy

Sep 20, 2019 / Policies & Bylaws

Racial and Ethnic Health Disparities

Jun 2, 2020

Evidence shows racial and ethnic disparities exist across a range of illnesses and health care services.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

May 19, 2020

We are striving to improve DEI in our profession and association.

Additional Cultural Competence in Physical Therapy Content

Cultural Considerations for Clinical Decision Making in Diverse Populations

Oct 20, 2020 / Resource

This course considers the clinical decision-making process and clinical reasoning strategies for incorporating the needs of a diverse patient population.

Diversity Climate: A Key for Successful Diversity Management in Physical Therapy

Nov 13, 2020 / Resource

This course introduces physical therapy professionals to the concept of Diversity Climate and its relationship to positive organizational outcomes.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Climate Scan Tools

Mar 25, 2024 / Article

Access a list of climate scanning tools to help you assess the DEI culture of your individual spaces and identify areas of improvement.

APTA's DEI Toolkit: 5 Takeaways on the Learning Journey

Apr 5, 2023 / Perspective

APTA's DEI Toolkit can help you learn, develop, and engage around critical concepts.

Advancing Inclusion in the Classroom — and Beyond

Sep 9, 2021 / Podcast

Have you ever stopped to think about your bias? In ways big and small. Awareness, empathy, and with inclusivity are the themes we discuss in this episode.

Woodruff Lecturer Challenges the Profession To Be 'Brave and Honest' About DEI

Jun 29, 2021 / News

Charlene Portee delivered a frank assessment of where things stand, and an inspiring vision for courageously embracing change.

Cultural Competence Resources: Gender Identity and Expression

Feb 8, 2021 / Article

PTs and PTAs must be aware of the diversity and complexity of gender identity to provide patient-centered, patient-partnered care.

Cultural Competence Resources: Race and Ethnicity

Jan 15, 2021 / Article

A baseline for beginning to explore cultural competence as it relates to race and ethnicity.

Cultural Competence: Persons Who Are Refugees or of Differing National Origin

Jan 8, 2021 / Article

Insight on working in cross-cultural situations.

Cultural Competence Resources: Individuals With Disabilities

Nov 24, 2020 / Article

The culturally competent practice of physical therapy includes practice with patients and clients who have mental or physical disabilities.