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ORIGINAL RESEARCH PAPER
Year : 2012  |  Volume : 25  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 40-47

Culturally and Linguistically Diverse Students in Health Professional Programs: An Exploration of Concerns and Needs


Faculty of Health, School of Medicine and Public Health, University of Newcastle, Australia

Correspondence Address:
C Gilligan
Discipline of Health Behaviour Sciences, University of Newcastle, HMRI Building, Lot 1 Kookaburra Circuit, New Lambton Heights 2305
Australia
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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None


DOI: 10.4103/1357-6283.99205

Introduction: Cultural diversity among students in tertiary institutions in Australia and globally has increased rapidly in the last decade, and is continuing to do so. Methods: Focus groups were held at the University of Newcastle, NSW to: (1) examine the specific needs of international students in the Master of Pharmacy, Bachelor of Medicine and Bachelor of Nursing programs in relation to language and cultural considerations and (2) to understand the attitudes of domestic students to the cultural issues faced among their peers. The project explored these issues with the intention to inform curricula changes to accommodate the needs of culturally and linguistically diverse students. Results: The key themes emerging from international students were: difficulties in spoken language, differences in professional roles and expectations, differences in methods of learning, inadequate social interaction outside the classroom and acceptance of differences in cultural and religious practices. The domestic student views reinforced the comments from international students both in regard to social interaction and in regard to participation in class discussions. Although local students were interested in learning from international students about their culture and religious beliefs, there were limited initiatives from both sides. Discussion: There is a need for tertiary institutions that benefit economically from increasing the numbers of international students to help them to study and live in a new environment. Assistance needs to go beyond learning the English language to helping students understand its use in a professional context (health terminology and slang used by patients), the nuances of the health professional disciplines in a western society, the approach to study and problem-based learning styles and skills to assist with social interaction. The results of the present exploration have led to a series of proposed actions for the University of Newcastle. These recommendations are applicable to any "Western" teaching institution with a large number of international students from developing countries enrolled in their health programs.


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