Cultural awareness

Last autumn I started as a PhD student and I had absolutely no clue of what to expect and do. At the moment I believe that I have adopted to my new role a little bit better.

I´ve just started as a participant in a PhD course called “Cultural awareness in health and social research”. It´s a course that is held as a collaboration between three universities; La Trobe University (Australia), The Hong Kong Polytechnic University (Hong Kong) and Malmö University (Sweden).

Me as a PhD student are supposed to broaden and deepen my understanding of cultural awareness in order to critically appraise research and the research process in health and social sciences. I have participated in the first webinar and really… I can feel it in my bones, this course is a real eye opener for me! In this blog post I will share my reflections so fare.

The diversity is broad and profound, right? The globalisation gives us diversity everywhere in the population and in the society. It´s all over, among nursing students, PhD candidates, professors and of course our patients and study participants/informants.

As I was reading about cross-cultural communication, I came to think about my clinical experiences. When I work as a clinical nurse it often happens that I meet patients from other countries and cultures. If the patient is ill (I mean really sick) they seem to experience insecurity and anxiety in a Swedish hospital care system they don´t know how to orient in. If, luckily, a healthcare professional from their own culture, speaking their own language comes and interact with them, the patient usually calms down and express comfort and peace. I believe that when we are “fragile”, the culture that we are familiar with is most important. A unit with a diversity of healthcare professionals is a strong cultural competent workplace and have prerequisites for individual and unique communication and interaction.

To be honest, I still struggle a bit with the meaning of cultural awareness. That´s probably because, until now, I have been unaware and,  I do have to enhance my knowledge regarding the concept cultural competence and the different “subcategories” of it. According to Hadziabdic et al. (2016) cultural awareness is about being aware that a person’s cultural background affects the person’s behaviours and attitudes. Furthermore, cultural awareness is described as an affective dimension and the lowest level of cultural competence (Rew et al., 2003). As I see it, this course is my first steps towards becoming more aware of culture and how it affects me and my fellows. But, actually, I wonder why we choose to focus on cultural awareness and no on the overall ultimate cultural competence. I´m very curious to learn more about this topic and how it will affect my studies. Looking forward to the future of this course and the interaction with all of you!

Hadziabdic et al. (2016) Swedish version of measuring cultural awareness in nursing students: validity and reliability test. BMC Nursing, 15(25), 1-9.

Rew et al. (2003) Measuring cultural awareness in nursing students. Journal of Nursing Education, 42(6), 249-257.

Photo: (CC0 1.0)

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