Reshaping curricula: Culture and mental health in undergraduate health degrees

Publication Type:
Journal Article
International Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 2018, 27 (2), pp. 652 - 661
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© 2017 Australian College of Mental Health Nurses Inc. Australia is a country rich in cultural diversity, with Indigenous Australians having specific cultural values and a variety of spoken languages. In addition, the increasing number of people from migrant and refugee backgrounds requires that health professionals be able to communicate effectively with people from a wide range of cultural backgrounds. This is particularly relevant when undertaking a mental health assessment, because members of diverse communities often face the dual vulnerability of marginalization and stigmatization. This paper reports on the development and evaluation of a virtual teaching and learning resource that prepares health students to be culturally competent in mental health assessment. Four online interprofessional learning journeys were developed. Evaluation of the learning resources was conducted across three participating Australian universities. Quantitative evaluation involved pre- and post-testing using an empathy scale, the Mental Health Nursing Clinical Confidence Scale, and the Cultural Competence Questionnaire informed by the theory of planned behaviour. Qualitative data from focus group interviews explored participants’ experiences of using the guided learning journey. Participants reported changes from pretest to post-test in their empathy and attitudes towards culturally and linguistically diverse consumers with significant positive changes in cultural competence, empathy, and attitudes. There was strong satisfaction with the learning materials, indicating that participants valued this ‘real world’ learning experience. Results require cautious interpretation, given recruitment difficulties in the evaluation phase. However, these learning journeys appear to have potential to be an effective way to challenge attitudes and perceptions, as well as increase cultural competence towards culturally and linguistically diverse consumers.
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