The critical urgency for Indigenous Australian cultural competence in the health sector has spurred research by a Charles Sturt University (CSU) lecturer and revealed some significant findings.
CSU Faculty of Science lecturer and research lead in the School of Nursing, Midwifery and Indigenous Health, Dr Jessica Biles has focused her studies on the health of Indigenous Australians and the influence health professionals have on the care they provide to this section of the community.
“Nurses comprise 56 per cent of the healthcare workforce,” Dr Biles said. “They have the ability to positively influence people and communities.”
Dr Biles is concerned about the number of Indigenous Australians who don’t access mainstream healthcare and therefore suffer unnecessarily and prohibit early intervention for treatable illnesses, which can end up being fatal.
“Within Indigenous Australian communities, the research literature shows that there are four major reasons that Indigenous Australians access mainstream health care later, or not at all, in comparison to non-Indigenous Australians.”
According to Dr Biles, one of the four cited reasons is due to the biases, attitudes, and behaviours of health care professionals.
“One way of addressing this problem is by adding Indigenous Australian knowledge into nursing curriculum,” Dr Biles said. “This is commonly referred to as Indigenous Australian cultural competence - the skills, behaviours and attitudes of the nurse that can influence the care experiences of patients.”
Dr Biles’ study sought to understand the experiences of nursing students learning Indigenous Australian content.
“Through this exploration we have established some understanding of the phenomenon of Indigenous Australian cultural competence in nursing. Importantly, through curriculum and personal learning experiences and the ability to make a connection with people, undergraduate nursing students did change, grow and develop their understanding of Indigenous Australian culture and health,” she said.
Dr Biles says this can only be seen as beneficial to the general public.
“This research removes the onus from the ‘problematic patient’ who doesn’t access healthcare and refocuses to the nurse who willingly considers how their individual attitudes, biases and behaviors influence care and ensures that health services are inclusive to all Australians,” she said.
“It reveals a model of learning that is important for educators, curriculum designers, and accreditation bodies to consider.”
Dr Biles is looking to test the model of learning Indigenous Australian cultural competence within other nursing or health related curriculums.