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Cultural Competence for Teachers of Healthcare Workers

Prof Irena Papadopoulos

ROLE: Professor
SCHOOL & DEPARTMENT: Faculty of Health, Social Care and Education Department of Mental Health and Social Work

Building on earlier work, Professor Irena Papadopoulos expanded and adapted her research to focus on aiding the teachers of healthcare professionals to address their learning and teaching needs, so that they might properly impart cultural competence to their students. Participating countries were the UK, Belgium, France, Germany and Romania and the aim, aside from changing the practices of educators, was to have a wide impact on key policymakers and influencers at national and EU level.

"When we finished IENE1, we realised that we should look at how undergraduate and post graduate education was actually being taught. Are the teachers themselves able to deliver cultural education? So in IENE2 we focussed on the teachers and created a methodology to be able to transfer the learning from IENE1 to these new partners," explains Professor Papadopoulos. "We involved a high number of teachers in the process, preparing them with a short workshop on what cultural competence is and why and how we should be including it in our curriculum. We asked them to go away and make a small change in their own curricula and create a small project in their own institutions. They recruited a number of teachers so our trainers trained their colleagues and then selected a project that they together delivered within their own curriculum."

With each of the projects, the IENE team took a generic, rather than specific, approach to cultural competence and attitudes to diversity and ethnicity. "What we are saying is we are all cultural beings, we have differences but some healthcare providers are culturally confident and competent and some are not. It is impossible for anyone to know all there is to know about all cultures – but everyone within the services should be trained to a level of competence," says Papadopoulos. "Through IENE2 we have raised awareness in a number of institutions in the countries that we worked with."

In September 2013, Papadopolous will move onto IENE3 which will focus specifically on compassion and the related concepts of communication and courage. "Scandals over the last few years in the health service and other caring organisations have highlighted appalling acts of indifference. Compassion needs to be a universal virtue."

Middlesex research in the IENE projects has changed the provision of training for nurses and other healthcare workers across Europe and has helped organisations provide services that meet the needs of a diverse patient base. That's something patients can welcome.

Read Professor Papadopoulos' full profile

Find out about Professor Papadopoulos' research into intercultural education of nurses in Europe

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