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Research benefits Indigenous health workers

28 Sep 2016

Indigenous health workers may soon have access to targeted education to develop their skills and knowledge, following a study by the University of the Sunshine Coast.

USC Senior Lecturer in Nursing Julie Martyn has developed an education curriculum framework for Indigenous health practitioners as part of a research project funded by the Central Queensland, Wide Bay and Sunshine Coast Primary Health Network.

Ms Martyn, who is based at USC Fraser Coast, said Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health workers were vital to the health and well-being of their communities, yet currently did not have continuing education programs specifically designed for their needs.

“Indigenous health care workers are the glue of Aboriginal and Islander health care services and close the gap on health disparities for their communities,” Ms Martyn said.

“Their role is diverse as they work with children, the elderly and pregnant women and deal with chronic diseases such as diabetes and heart disease,” she said. “They go into people’s homes to do health checks and facilitate people’s pathway through the health care system.”

Since 2012, Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander health practice professionals have been regulated nationally under the Australian Health Practitioner Regulation Agency and are required to complete a set amount of continuing education hours each year.

“There are numerous programs for doctors, nurses and other health care providers, but no specialised programs for this vital group of people in our community. Such programs are essential to enable Indigenous health workers to practice safely and effectively.”

The new education curriculum framework was designed in collaboration with Wide Bay’s largest Indigenous health care providers and could be adapted for use by other providers across the state, Ms Martyn said.

“What makes this project unique is that this curriculum has been developed by the people, for the people,” she said.

“Through interviews, surveys and focus groups, we have explored the educational needs of participants from their perspective and the perspective of their supervisors.”

Other key recommendation from the study include regular workforce gatherings to discuss practice-based issues with an educational focus, and time out during work hours for collaborative learning.

— Clare McKay

USC Senior Lecturer in Nursing Julie Martyn with Indigenous health worker Melanie Green

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