Health care and cultural differences at centre of Australian study

Ever wondered how difficult it must be for patients from different cultural backgrounds to be hospitalised in Australia?

RMIT researchers will investigate whether these patients are at risk in a predominantly white Anglo health system.

RMIT transcultural nursing expert Professor Olga Kanitsaki and bioethics expert Megan-Jane Johnstone have received a $73,000 grant to investigate cultural safety and cultural competence in nursing and health care.

“Despite being a multicultural society, and despite increasing numbers of people from culturally and linguistically diverse backgrounds making up the health professions, Australia’s health care system and health education remains largely monoculture in nature,” Professor Kanitsaki said.

“The health system is largely informed by, and reflects the dominant cultural values, care practices and beliefs of one cultural group – notably white (Anglo-Celtic) Australians.

“Accordingly, people of diverse cultural and language backgrounds might be ‘at risk’ in terms of being able to gain access to safe and quality care,” she said.

Professor Kanitsaki said the risks, such as inaccurate nursing, assessment and misdiagnosis and wrong care provision, were particularly high in instances where patients and professional caregivers did not share the same cultural background and did not speak the same language.

“In these instances it can be difficult and even impossible to communicate effectively, and importantly for care-providers to deliver safe, meaningful and effective care to the patients and their families,” she said.

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