Improving the health of Indigenous Australians: reforms in nursing education. An opinion piece of international interest

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AimThis paper overviews Indigenous disadvantage in relatively wealthy Australia. It describes efforts to increase the recruitment and retention of Indigenous people in nursing and to reform nursing education to be more inclusive of Indigenous culture, health and history.BackgroundIndigenous people on average die 17 years younger than non-Indigenous people and have health problems similar to those of people in some underdeveloped countries. Moreover, social injustice and human rights issues affect their health and well-being and educational opportunities. They are under-represented in the health professions, including nursing, often through a lack of educational preparation and historical, socio-economic and cultural factors hindering them from entering and succeeding in university studies.MethodsIn 2000, a project was funded by the Australian commonwealth government and led by the Indigenous Nursing Education Working Group. This Group worked for five years on a wide range of methods that included consultation within the profession, information dissemination and longitudinal surveying of university schools of nursing and Indigenous support units.ResultsFindings show that collaborative efforts between key stakeholders in nursing education appear to be succeeding to increase the numbers of Indigenous students of nursing. Around two–thirds of schools of nursing now include Indigenous content in their undergraduate curricula, but the majority is yet to provide Indigenous cultural awareness/cultural safety training for faculty.

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