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Enhancing the cultural competence of healthcare professionals through an online course

With the marked growth of in-migration to many Western countries over the past few decades, health services face the challenge of providing care to increasingly diverse populations. Minority ethnic groups encounter cultural, linguistic and institutional barriers in accessing health services and in the quality and continuity of their care. A key step in developing culturally sensitive services is the training of health and social care professionals in cultural competence. This article describes an online course on cultural competence for health and social care professionals as an example of good practice. This 8-week course aims to enhance knowledge and skills in cultural competence through an interactive online learning environment. The paper begins with a general introduction to the concept of cultural competence in healthcare and the rationale behind it. It then examines the advantages and disadvantages of online learning as opposed to traditional  classroom learning. The many advantages of online learning are discussed, including the flexibility for the learner to fit the course around their work and family commitments. The advantages and disadvantages of the course are subsequently examined from the viewpoint of the students through the course evaluation. This evaluation showed that the three critical elements for running a successful online course were present, namely content, learner support and learning activities. All received positive evaluations from the students. In conclusion, it is clear that online courses on cultural competence can be successful, so long as they are well designed and supported.

Author(s): Irena Papadopoulos, Fiona Kelly

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