The Impact of a Postgraduate Diabetes Course on the Perceptions Aboriginal Health Workers and Supervisors in South Australia

Abstract

Contemporary diabetes management is a specialised area of health care and qualified health professionals in this country seeking employment as diabetes educators are first advised to undertake a postgraduate accredited Australian Diabetes Educators Association (ADEA) course. In 1998, aware that type 2 diabetes was a major health problem in the Aboriginal population, Flinders University opened its ADEA accredited course to Aboriginal health workers. This initiative was supported by the South Australian Aboriginal Health Partnership, and the Aboriginal Health Council of South Australia and, as a result, three cohorts of Aboriginal health workers (n=31) were funded to undertake the diabetes course between 1998 and 2001.

This was the first time in Australia that health workers in large numbers had undertaken an accredited ADEA course that had been developed for registered nurses and allied health professionals. In view of the different educational background of the two groups, it was thought that the course may not meet the learning needs of Aboriginal health workers. Thus, a qualitative study using critical ethnography was undertaken in fourteen sites in South Australia. The aim was to identify the perceptions of the course held by the health workers who had undertaken the course and the supervisors whose responsibility it was to oversee their clinical activities. It also included establishing whether the course was relevant to the health care needs of Aboriginal people with diabetes in South Australia. The participant group was comprised from the health workers (n=18) who had undertaken the diabetes course and their supervisors (n=21). Data collection and analysis took place between 2001 and 2002. The instrument used was a semi-structured questionnaire. The methods included interviewing and tape recording, observation and fieldwork. The transcripts were thematically analysed and managed by using NVivo software.

Three main themes emerged: the positive and negative perceptions of the course held by the participants, the development of the health workers as health professionals and the relevance of the course to the health care needs of Aboriginal people with diabetes.

We concluded that other Schools of Nursing & Midwifery in Australia who offer ADEA courses might also enable Aboriginal health workers to access their courses. This contribution would greatly help improve the diabetes health status of Aboriginal people.

Authors

Meri King
Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide SA

Rebecca Munt
Lecturer, Coordinator, School of Nursing and Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide SA

Angela Eastwood
Senior Lecturer, School of Nursing & Midwifery, Flinders University, Adelaide SA

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Keywords

Australian Aboriginal health workers, tertiary education, diabetes health care

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