“How can I do more?” Cultural awareness training for hospital-based healthcare providers working with high Aboriginal caseload

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Background: Aboriginal cultural awareness training aims to build a culturally responsive workforce, however research has found the training has limited impact on the health professional’s ability to provide culturally safe care. This study examined cultural awareness training feedback from healthcare professionals working with high Aboriginal patient caseloads in the Top End of the Northern Territory of Australia. The aim of the research was to assess the perception of training and the potential for expansion to better meet workforce needs.

Methods: Audit and qualitative thematic analysis of cultural awareness training evaluation forms completed by course participants between March and October 2018. Course participants ranked seven teaching domains using five-point Likert scales (maximum summary score 35 points) and provided free-text feedback. Data were analysed using the Framework Method and assessed against Kirkpatrick’s training evaluation model. Cultural safety and decolonising philosophies shaped the approach.

Results: 621 participants attended 27 ACAP sessions during the study period. Evaluation forms were completed by 596 (96%). The mean overall assessment score provided was 34/35 points (standard deviation 1.0, range 31-35) indicating high levels of participant satisfaction. Analysis of 683 free text comments found participants wanted more cultural education, designed and delivered by local people, which provides an opportunity to consciously explore both Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal cultures (including self-reflection). Regarding the expansion of cultural education, four major areas requiring specific attention were identified: communication, kinship, history and professional relevance. A strength of this training was the authentic personal stories shared by local Aboriginal cultural educators, reflecting community experiences and attitudes. Criticism of the current model included that too much information was delivered in one day.

Conclusions: Healthcare providers found cultural awareness training to be an invaluable entry point. Cultural education which elevates the Aboriginal health user’s experience and provides health professionals with an opportunity for critical self reflection and practical solutions for common cross-cultural clinical encounters may improve the delivery of culturally safe care. We conclude that revised models of cultural education should be developed, tested and evaluated. This requires institutional support, and recognition that cultural education can contribute to addressing systemic racism.
Original languageEnglish
Article number173
Pages (from-to)1-11
Number of pages11
JournalBMC Medical Education
Publication statusPublished - 29 May 2020


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