Serving an Indigenous community: Exploring the cultural competence of medical students in a rural setting

Lee Ping Chen
Kwee Choy Koh
Siew Houy Chua
Darren Chee Hiung Jong
Nurliyana Mardhiah Mohd Fauzi
Sue Yin Lim

Abstract


Since 2013, medical students from the International Medical University (IMU) in Malaysia have been providing primary healthcare services, under the supervision of faculty members, to the indigenous people living in Kampung Sebir. The project has allowed the students to learn experientially within a rural setting. This study aims to examine the cultural competence of IMU medical students through an examination of their perspective of the indigenous people who they serve and the role of this community service in their personal and professional development.

Students who participated in the project were required to complete a questionnaire after each community engagement activity to help them reflect on the above areas. We analysed the responses of students from January to December 2015 using a thematic analysis approach to identify overarching themes in the students’ responses.

Students had differing perceptions of culture and worldviews when compared to the indigenous people. However, they lacked the self-reflection skills necessary to understand how such differences can affect their relationship with the indigenous people. Because of this, the basis of their engagement with the indigenous community (as demonstrated by their views of community service) is focused on their agenda of promoting health from a student’s perspective rather than connecting and building relationships first. Students also lacked the appreciation that building cultural competency is a continuous process.

The results show that the medical students have a developing cultural competence. The project in Kampung Sebir is an experiential learning platform of great value to provide insights into and develop the cultural competency of participating students. This study also reflects on the project itself, and how the relationship with stakeholders, the competence and diversity of academic staff, and the support of the university can contribute toward training in cultural competence.

Keywords


Medical education; indigenous; perception; community engagement; cultural competence

Full Text:

PDF HTML


DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.5130/ijcre.v10i1.5427