Adapting to rural communities by overseas-born health professionals
Le, Q and Elmer, SL and Kilpatrick, SI, Adapting to rural communities by overseas-born health professionals, 10th National Rural Health Conference Proceedings: Rural Health, the place to be, 17-20 May 2009, Cairns, Qld, pp. 1-9. ISBN 1 921219 15 7 (2009) [Refereed Conference Paper]
As with other multicultural nations, cultural diversity is a prominent feature of Australian society that leads to intercultural awareness and respect through citizen interactions. While this enriching multicultural interaction is clearly seen in big cities like Sydney and Melbourne, it can be very different
in the Australian rural context. Living in an isolated rural area is challenging for health professionals who were brought up in urban areas, particularly those born overseas as they experience two types of
cultural and social adaptation: urban into rural and native culture into new culture. As a result of workforce shortages, many overseas trained health professionals are recruited to work in Australia, particularly in rural areas. This has given rise to various initiatives and strategies developed to
support and assist these health professionals in their dual cultural and social adaptation. These include University Departments of Rural Health and Rural Clinical Schools programs as well as the Rural Workforce Agencies. However, these programs do not extend to those health professionals who were
born overseas and trained in Australia as they are ‘Australian graduates’. In this paper we argue that in ways similar to those born and trained overseas, overseas-born Australian-trained health professionals may require additional support during the acculturation process and making the transition to working
in rural communities.
The aim of this study is to examine some aspects of the acculturation of overseas-born Australian trained health professionals working in rural areas. This study seeks to understand the particular issues that emerge as a result of cultural difference in order to propose strategies that may more adequately
prepare these Australian graduates for their rural health experience.
Six overseas-born Australian-trained health professionals were invited to participate in this qualitative study using snowball sampling. The interviews were recorded with the approval of the participants. The interview data were transcribed as raw data and later coded for thematic analysis, which includes
topics and themes arising from the raw data as well as from the interview questions with a focus on issues and strategies of acculturation into a rural health context.
There were different factors which facilitated or hindered the acculturation of overseas-born health professionals into a rural workforce such as professional isolation, cultural shock, family pressure, and cultural identity. The acculturation process was also affected by the quality of their perceived ‘social and cultural capital’. Different coping strategies were employed to deal with the changes in a new rural environment. The paper discusses some implications of this study with focus on how to improve the
living and working conditions of overseas-born Australian-trained health professionals in order to attract them to rural Australia.