CONTINUALLY poor health outcomes for Indigenous Australians spurred Dr Jessica Biles to devote five years researching how to improve them.
The Albury-based CSU faculty of science lecturer and research lead for the school of nursing, midwifery and Indigenous health was awarded her PhD at Friday's graduation ceremony for her her study into the influence health professionals have on Indigenous Australians.
Dr Biles’ concerns rose from the amount of Indigenous people who don’t access mainstream healthcare, as well as some of her friends and family’s own experiences.
Her research focused on the effect nurses could have on the issue.
“Nurses make up 56 per cent of the healthcare workforce, the have the ability to positively influence people and communities,” Dr Biles said.
“After I’d been teaching nursing for a while I wanted to know how nurses are learning about Indigenous culture, what they’re learning, and whether it’s tainting their perception.”
The qualitative study focused on the lived experiences of the participants, who were drawn from first and third year nursing students students.
What Dr Biles found was that it was important for students to find some sort of connection with Indigenous issues.
“I feel really privileged with the information the participants gave me, they were brutally honest and very respectful,” she said.
“Ultimately the story was that they did change, grow and develop, and how that were able to do that was very different from the model we currently have.
“It was very important that they developed a connection, whether it was through the curriculum, their peers, or meeting an Indigenous person for the first time.
“They actively needed to look for truth, and test what they’d heard in the media or through friends.
“It’s really important for curriculum designers, lecturers and nurses, it’s revealed a way we can teach to this.”
Dr Biles said she was pleased the study had been so successful, but said it would now need to be trialled in metropolitan areas, as well as in allied health.
“The model, I hope, is transferable, but it’s really only one step in the right direction,” she said.
“It’s important that we keep creating opportunities for further learning.”