Document Type


First Faculty Advisor

Julie Volkman


intercultural communication competence; empathy; international travel; physician assistants


Bryant University

Rights Management



Having cultural competency and empathy towards others has become increasingly important, especially within the medical field. Experiential learning, such as study abroad has been shown to help increase intercultural communication competence (ICC) and empathy amongst students, which is important once those students enter the workforce. It is especially important for health care providers, such as Physician Assistants, to have high levels of ICC and empathy since they are in contact with patients from various cultures and need to have clear and comfortable communication with those patients. The purpose of this study is to confirm the relationship between ICC and empathy as well as determine whether physician assistant (PA) students’ international experience has helped them in intercultural interactions with patients and while in school. A survey was sent to Bryant University and Tufts University PA students with questions relating to their international travel history and study abroad as well as questions related to ICC and empathy. Additionally, questions were asked about their experiences in their PA programs and with patients. The data was analyzed with both qualitative and quantitative analysis. The quantitative results supported previous research showing the connection between ICC and empathy but found no significant relationship between international experience and high levels of ICC and empathy amongst PA students. Through qualitative analysis, a connection is seen between international experience and comfortable intercultural communication within PA student patient-provider interactions as well as increased empathy towards patients. This study provides a good foundation for future research into how to adjust the PA curriculum to help improve their intercultural competence.