Open Access Correspondence

Teaching physiotherapy skills in culturally-diverse classes

Andrea Bialocerkowski1*, Cherie Wells1 and Karen Grimmer-Somers2

Author Affiliations

1 School of Biomedical and Health Sciences, University of Western Sydney, Locked Bag 1797, Penrith, NSW, 2751, Australia

2 International Centre for Allied Health Evidence, University of South Australia, North Terrace Adelaide, 5000, Australia

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BMC Medical Education 2011, 11:34  doi:10.1186/1472-6920-11-34

Published: 16 June 2011



Cultural competence, the ability to work in cross-cultural situations, has been acknowledged as a core skill for physiotherapists and other health professionals. Literature in this area has focused on the rationale for physiotherapists to provide culturally-competent care and the effectiveness of various educational strategies to facilitate the acquisition of knowledge about cultural competence by physiotherapists and physiotherapy students. However, there is a paucity of research on how students with different cultural needs, who are attending one university class, can be accommodated within a framework of learning core physiotherapy skills to achieve professional standards.


This paper reports on steps which were taken to resolve the specific needs of a culturally-diverse body of first year physiotherapy students, and the impact this had on teaching in a new physiotherapy program located in Greater Western Sydney, Australia. Physiotherapy legislative, accreditation and registration requirements were considered in addition to anti-discrimination legislation and the four ethical principles of decision making.


Reflection on this issue and the steps taken to resolve it has resulted in the development of a generic framework which focuses on providing quality and equitable physiotherapy education opportunities to all students. This framework is generalizable to other health professions worldwide.