Home' InDaily : March 25th 2010 Contents 2|Vol21No2March2010
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Cultural sensitivity a key to improving health
Health professionals might wish for a list
of cultural "dos and don'ts" they can tick
off when dealing with Indigenous clients,
but there isn't one.
Remembering that each individual is
different is a central aspect of the
cultural safety approach advocated by
Ms Kerry Taylor of the Centre for Remote
Health and Dr Pauline Guerin of the
School of Nursing and Midwifery in
Health care and Indigenous Australians:
cultural safety in practice.
the care who determines whether or not
they feel safe in an interaction.
"It is not something that a supervisor
can observe or approve."
Dr Guerin said health professionals
can unwittingly perpetuate the
attitudes of colonisation.
"Health professionals automatically come
with the power, authority and privilege
inherent in that role, and health
professionals need to be sensitive that this
power is not used to diminish how
someone lives their life," she said.
The book provides numerous case studies
and scenarios to illustrate cultural safety
Taking case notes that conspicuously
ignore a patient's cultural explanations of
a symptom or ailment, for example,
indicates indifference, but is a practice
that is easy to reverse.
"By writing down what the clients says,
it signals that what he or she says is
considered to be important and valuable,"
Ms Taylor said.
And, says Dr Guerin, building a client's
trust and confidence is essential to
The new book is intended for health
students and professionals who want to
improve their practice in relation to
Indigenous Australian clients. The
non-Indigenous authors aim to "shift the
focus from the usual expectations that
the clients are the ones who need to
change in order to achieve improved
health outcomes to focus on
changing healthcare professionals,"
according to Ms Taylor.
"A critical part of cultural safety is
reflecting on your own practices, being
mindful of the situation and being able
to think carefully about your behaviour,
and being sensitive to the possibilities,"
Dr Guerin said.
While it is worthwhile to acquire an
awareness of what might be different,
such as the appropriateness of touching
or the etiquette around entering a
client's house, it should not be treated
as a checklist.
"Health practitioners have to think about
how what they are doing is being
received," Dr Guerin said.
"The one thing that distinguishes cultural
safety from other models, such as cultural
competence, is that it is the recipient of
"My ARA colleagues, Wolfgang Lieff and
Helmut Thompson, dropped everything
and worked all day to configure the
plane with the laser scanning
equipment," he said.
"I flew for about six hours on each of
three days laser-scanning the townships
of St George, Hebel and Dirranbandi with
Wolfgang Lieff, in a motel room at
St George, converting the data into terrain
elevation maps, making the task an
extremely interesting research project into
rapid response under emergency situations.
"Normally it takes weeks to process the
amount of data we collected but, as it had
to be done in a few hours, we tried to pull
out the critical data to present that evening
to the emergency management meeting, so
they could decide what to do the next day."
Associate Professor Hacker said the episode
has firmed plans to set up an emergency
response operation with Gentol.
"People really learned how to appreciate the
data we can produce. It was very satisfying
to know that we could do something very
tangible that clearly helped people in a
desperate situation. It was a dramatic
opportunity for us."
Airborne Research Australia
Cover photo: St George floods.
Photo: Michael Brumpton
Cultural safety in consultations
Associate Professor Jorg Hacker
In response to Prime Minister Kevin
Rudd's offer of help, Shire Mayor Donna
Stewart asked for real-time aerial flood
mapping to guide their decision-making.
Within hours Associate Professor Hacker
took a phone call from Canberra and,
next morning, he flew seven hours to
St George to start a hectic week of flying
and data analysis.
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