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1.  “Listening to the silence quietly”: investigating the value of cultural immersion and remote experiential learning in preparing midwifery students for clinical practice 
BMC Research Notes  2014;7(1):685.
Background
Cultural immersion programs are increasingly offered to medical and health science students in an effort to provide experiential learning opportunities that focus on ‘the self’ as well as ‘the other’. Immersion programs encourage self-reflection on attitudes towards cultural differences, provide opportunities to build relationships and work with community members, and allow students to apply knowledge and skills learned in training programs in a supervised practice setting. The aim of this paper is to describe midwifery students’ reflections on a remote Aboriginal clinical placement that has been offered at a Western Australian university since 2010.
Methods
Interviews were conducted over a period of 15 months with the first seven participants who completed the program. At the time of interview, four participants were in the final year of their undergraduate degree and three were practicing midwives. In addition, access was given to a detailed journal kept by one participant during the placement. Interviews also were conducted with midwifery staff at the university and practice setting, although the focus of this paper is upon the student experience.
Results
Student selection, preparation and learning experiences as well as implications of the placement for midwifery practice are described. The remote clinical placement was highly valued by all students and recommended to others as a profound learning experience. Highlights centred on connections made with community members and cultural knowledge learned experientially, while challenges included geographic and professional isolation and the complexities of health care delivery in remote settings, especially to pregnant and birthing Aboriginal women. All students recognised the transferability of the knowledge and skills acquired to urban settings, and some had already incorporated these learnings into clinical practice.
Conclusions
Cultural immersion programs have the potential to provide students with rich learning experiences that cannot be acquired in classroom settings. In Aboriginal communities on the Ngaanyatjarra Lands students gained valuable insights into the impact of isolation on health service delivery, the extent and strength of cultural traditions in the region, and a heightened awareness of the difficulties encountered by pregnant and birthing Aboriginal women in remote locations.
Electronic supplementary material
The online version of this article (doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-685) contains supplementary material, which is available to authorized users.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-7-685
PMCID: PMC4283110  PMID: 25274179
Midwifery education; Aboriginal health; Cultural immersion; Cultural competency
2.  Examining the potential contribution of social theory to developing and supporting Australian Indigenous-mainstream health service partnerships 
Introduction
The substantial gap in life expectancy between Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians has been slow to improve, despite increased dedicated funding. Partnerships between Australian Indigenous and mainstream Western biomedical organisations are recognised as crucial to improved Indigenous health outcomes. However, these partnerships often experience challenges, particularly in the context of Australia’s race and political relations.
Methods
We examined the relevant literature in order to identify the potential role for social theory and theoretical models in developing and maintaining intercultural partnerships. Having identified relevant theoretical models, terms and possible key words, a range of databases were searched and relevant articles selected for inclusion. An integrative approach brought together theoretical models and practical considerations about working in partnership, to inform our analysis of the literature.
Findings
Considering partnerships between Australian Indigenous and mainstream health organisations as ‘bi-cultural’ is simplistic: rather they are culturally diverse across social and professional levels. As such, partnerships between Australian Indigenous and mainstream health organisations may be better conceptualised as ‘intercultural’, operating across diverse and shifting cultural frames of reference. Theories identified by this review as useful to guide partnerships include power relations, reflexivity and dialogue, borders and strangeness and the intercultural or third space. This paper examines how these theoretical approaches can develop understanding and improve intercultural engagement between mainstream and Australian Indigenous partners in healthcare.
Conclusions
Rather than viewing partnerships merely as arrangements between disembodied entities, sometimes contractual in nature, they are better seen as activities between people and organisations and essentially dependent on relationships, occurring in an intercultural space that is complex, dynamic and subject to changes in power relations. Theoretical models aiming to understand and improve partnerships indicate the complexity of building and maintaining such partnerships and stress the importance of understanding factors that can strengthen or derail their effectiveness. While the theories presented here are by no means exhaustive, they nonetheless provide a series of entry points through which to engage with the issue and expand the discourse. This approach allows the transformative nature of Australian Indigenous-mainstream ‘culture’ to be explored and understood in its lived expression; rather than relegated to prescriptive categories.
doi:10.1186/s12939-014-0075-5
PMCID: PMC4169641  PMID: 25242106
Partnerships; Indigenous health; Social theory; Collaboration; Intercultural
3.  Identifying barriers and improving communication between cancer service providers and Aboriginal patients and their families: the perspective of service providers 
Background
Aboriginal Australians experience poorer outcomes from cancer compared to the non-Aboriginal population. Some progress has been made in understanding Aboriginal Australians’ perspectives about cancer and their experiences with cancer services. However, little is known of cancer service providers’ (CSPs) thoughts and perceptions regarding Aboriginal patients and their experiences providing optimal cancer care to Aboriginal people. Communication between Aboriginal patients and non-Aboriginal health service providers has been identified as an impediment to good Aboriginal health outcomes. This paper reports on CSPs’ views about the factors impairing communication and offers practical strategies for promoting effective communication with Aboriginal patients in Western Australia (WA).
Methods
A qualitative study involving in-depth interviews with 62 Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal CSPs from across WA was conducted between March 2006 - September 2007 and April-October 2011. CSPs were asked to share their experiences with Aboriginal patients and families experiencing cancer. Thematic analysis was carried out. Our analysis was primarily underpinned by the socio-ecological model, but concepts of Whiteness and privilege, and cultural security also guided our analysis.
Results
CSPs’ lack of knowledge about the needs of Aboriginal people with cancer and Aboriginal patients’ limited understanding of the Western medical system were identified as the two major impediments to communication. For effective patient–provider communication, attention is needed to language, communication style, knowledge and use of medical terminology and cross-cultural differences in the concept of time. Aboriginal marginalization within mainstream society and Aboriginal people’s distrust of the health system were also key issues impacting on communication. Potential solutions to effective Aboriginal patient-provider communication included recruiting more Aboriginal staff, providing appropriate cultural training for CSPs, cancer education for Aboriginal stakeholders, continuity of care, avoiding use of medical jargon, accommodating patients’ psychosocial and logistical needs, and in-service coordination.
Conclusion
Individual CSPs identified challenges in cross-cultural communication and their willingness to accommodate culture-specific needs within the wider health care system including better communication with Aboriginal patients. However, participants’ comments indicated a lack of concerted effort at the system level to address Aboriginal disadvantage in cancer outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-460
PMCID: PMC3835135  PMID: 24188503
Aboriginal; Indigenous; Cancer; Communication; Health service provider; Cancer service provider
4.  Voting with their feet - predictors of discharge against medical advice in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal ischaemic heart disease inpatients in Western Australia: an analytic study using data linkage 
Background
Discharge Against Medical Advice (DAMA) from hospital is associated with adverse outcomes and is considered an indicator of the responsiveness of hospitals to the needs of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Australians, the indigenous people of Australia. We investigated demographic and clinical factors that predict DAMA in patients experiencing their first-ever inpatient admission for ischaemic heart disease (IHD). The study focuses particularly on the differences in the risk of DAMA in Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients while also investigating other factors in their own right.
Methods
A cross-sectional analytical study was undertaken using linked hospital and mortality data with complete coverage of Western Australia. Participants included all first-ever IHD inpatients (aged 25–79 years) admitted between 2005 and 2009, selected after a 15-year clearance period and who were discharged alive. The main outcome measure was DAMA as reflected in the hospital record.
Multiple logistic regression was used to determine disparities in DAMA between Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal patients, adjusting for a range of demographic and clinical factors, including comorbidity based on 5-year hospitalization history. A series of additional models were run on subgroups of the cohort to refine the analysis. Ethics approval was granted by the WA Human Research and the WA Aboriginal Health Ethics Committees.
Results
Aboriginal patients comprised 4.3% of the cohort of 37,304 IHD patients and 23% of the 224 DAMAs. Emergency admission (OR=5.9, 95% CI 2.9-12.2), alcohol admission history (alcohol-related OR=2.9, 95% CI 2.0-4.2) and Aboriginality (OR 2.3, 95% CI 1.5-3.5) were the strongest predictors of DAMA in the multivariate model. Patients living in rural areas while attending non-metropolitan hospitals had a 50% higher risk of DAMA than those living and hospitalised in metropolitan areas. There was consistency in the ORs for Aboriginality in the different multivariate models using restricted sub-cohorts and different Aboriginal identifiers. Sex, IHD diagnosis type and co-morbidity scores imparted different risks in Aboriginal versus non-Aboriginal patients.
Conclusions
Understanding the risks and reasons for DAMA is important for health system policy and proactive management of those at risk of DAMA. Improving care to prevent DAMA should target unplanned admissions, rural hospitals and young men, Aboriginal people and those with alcohol and mental health comorbidities.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-13-330
PMCID: PMC3765140  PMID: 23962275
Discharge against medical advice; Aboriginal health; Ischaemic Heart Disease; Linked data; Australia
5.  Reducing the health disparities of Indigenous Australians: time to change focus 
Background
Indigenous peoples have worse health than non-Indigenous, are over-represented amongst the poor and disadvantaged, have lower life expectancies, and success in improving disparities is limited. To address this, research usually focuses on disadvantaged and marginalised groups, offering only partial understanding of influences underpinning slow progress. Critical analysis is also required of those with the power to perpetuate or improve health inequities. In this paper, using Australia as a case example, we explore the effects of ‘White’, Anglo-Australian cultural dominance in health service delivery to Indigenous Australians. We address the issue using race as an organising principle, underpinned by relations of power.
Methods
Interviews with non-Indigenous medical practitioners in Western Australia with extensive experience in Indigenous health encouraged reflection and articulation of their insights into factors promoting or impeding quality health care to Indigenous Australians. Interviews were audio-taped and transcribed. An inductive, exploratory analysis identified key themes that were reviewed and interrogated in light of existing literature on health care to Indigenous people, race and disadvantage. The researchers’ past experience, knowledge and understanding of health care and Indigenous health assisted with data interpretation. Informal discussions were also held with colleagues working professionally in Indigenous policy, practice and community settings.
Results
Racism emerged as a key issue, leading us to more deeply interrogate the role ‘Whiteness’ plays in Indigenous health care. While Whiteness can refer to skin colour, it also represents a racialized social structure where Indigenous knowledge, beliefs and values are subjugated to the dominant western biomedical model in policy and practice. Racism towards Indigenous patients in health services was institutional and interpersonal. Internalised racism was manifest when Indigenous patients incorporated racist attitudes and beliefs into their lived experience, lowering expectations and their sense of self-worth.
Conclusions
Current health policies and practices favour standardised care where the voice of those who are marginalised is often absent. Examining the effectiveness of such models in reducing health disparities requires health providers to critically reflect on whether policies and practices promote or compromise Indigenous health and wellbeing - an important step in changing the discourse that places Indigenous people at the centre of the problem.
doi:10.1186/1472-6963-12-151
PMCID: PMC3431273  PMID: 22682494
6.  Not just bricks and mortar: planning hospital cancer services for Aboriginal people 
BMC Research Notes  2011;4:62.
Background
Aboriginal people in Australia experience higher mortality from cancer compared with non-Aboriginal Australians, despite an overall lower incidence. A notable contributor to this disparity is that many Aboriginal people do not take up or continue with cancer treatment which almost always occurs within major hospitals.
Thirty in-depth interviews with urban, rural and remote Aboriginal people affected by cancer were conducted between March 2006 and September 2007. Interviews explored participants' beliefs about cancer and experiences of cancer care and were audio-recorded, transcribed verbatim and coded independently by two researchers. NVivo7 software was used to assist data management and analysis. Information from interviews relevant to hospital services including and building design was extracted.
Findings
Relationships and respect emerged as crucial considerations of participants although many aspects of the hospital environment were seen as influencing the delivery of care. Five themes describing concerns about the hospital environment emerged: (i) being alone and lost in a big, alien and inflexible system; (ii) failure of open communication, delays and inefficiency in the system; (iii) practicalities: costs, transportation, community and family responsibilities; (iv) the need for Aboriginal support persons; and (v) connection to the community.
Conclusions
Design considerations and were identified but more important than the building itself was the critical need to build trust in health services. Promotion of cultural safety, support for Aboriginal family structures and respecting the importance of place and community to Aboriginal patients are crucial in improving cancer outcomes.
doi:10.1186/1756-0500-4-62
PMCID: PMC3068108  PMID: 21401923

Results 1-6 (6)