Adapting to rural communities by overseas-born health professionals

Le, Quynh, Elmer, Shandell and Kilpatrick, Sue 2009, Adapting to rural communities by overseas-born health professionals, in Rural health : the place to be, [National Rural Health Conference], [Cairns, Qld.].

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Title Adapting to rural communities by overseas-born health professionals
Author(s) Le, Quynh
Elmer, Shandell
Kilpatrick, Sue
Conference name National Rural Health Conference (10th : 2009 : Cairns, Qld.)
Conference location Cairns, Qld.
Conference dates 17-20 May 2009
Title of proceedings Rural health : the place to be
Editor(s) [Unknown]
Publication date 2009
Conference series National Rural Health Conference
Publisher [National Rural Health Conference]
Place of publication [Cairns, Qld.]
Summary Introduction
As with other multicultural nations, cultural diversity is a prominent feature of Australian society that leads to intercultural awareness and respect through citizen interactions. While this enriching multicultural interaction is clearly seen in big cities like Sydney and Melbourne, it can be very different in the Australian rural context. Living in an isolated rural area is challenging for health professionals who were brought up in urban areas, particularly those born overseas as they experience two types of cultural and social adaptation: urban into rural and native culture into new culture.

As a result of workforce shortages, many overseas trained health professionals are recruited to work in Australia, particularly in rural areas. This has given rise to various initiatives and strategies developed to support and assist these health professionals in their dual cultural and social adaptation. These include University Departments of Rural Health and Rural Clinical Schools programs as well as the Rural Workforce Agencies. However, these programs do not extend to those health professionals who were born overseas and trained in Australia as they are ‘Australian graduates’. In this paper we argue that in ways similar to those born and trained overseas, overseas-born Australian-trained health professionals may require additional support during the acculturation process and making the transition to working in rural communities.

The aim of this study is to examine some aspects of the acculturation of overseas-born Australian trained health professionals working in rural areas. This study seeks to understand the particular issues that emerge as a result of cultural difference in order to propose strategies that may more adequately prepare these Australian graduates for their rural health experience.

Six overseas-born Australian-trained health professionals were invited to participate in this qualitative study using snowball sampling. The interviews were recorded with the approval of the participants. The interview data were transcribed as raw data and later coded for thematic analysis, which includes topics and themes arising from the raw data as well as from the interview questions with a focus on issues and strategies of acculturation into a rural health context.

There were different factors which facilitated or hindered the acculturation of overseas-born health professionals into a rural workforce such as professional isolation, cultural shock, family pressure, and cultural identity. The acculturation process was also affected by the quality of their perceived ‘social and cultural capital’. Different coping strategies were employed to deal with the changes in a new rural environment. The paper discusses some implications of this study with focus on how to improve the living and working conditions of overseas-born Australian-trained health professionals in order to attract them to rural Australia.
ISBN 1921219157
Language eng
Field of Research 130199 Education systems not elsewhere classified
HERDC Research category E1.1 Full written paper - refereed
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Document type: Conference Paper
Collection: Vice-Chancellor and Presidents Office
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