Preparing Medical Students to Undertake a Cultural Immersion Experience: Introducing Frameworks for Preparatory and Post-Immersion Activities
Rural and remote area health
Theory and practice of education
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AbstractRecruiting and retaining practitioners to rural and remote locations is a challenge for many industries including health and education. The medical, nursing and teaching professions have utilized immersion experiences for trainees and students to better prepare them and to address workforce shortages in cross-cultural and underserved areas. This paper describes the steps taken to improve an immersion experience for medical students and evaluates the impact of these improvements. The University of Notre Dame’s School of Medicine requires all second year medical students to undertake the Kimberley Remote Area Health Placement Program (hereinafter the ‘Program’). The Program provides opportunities to learn life skills required for remote area living via an immersion experience in which students live with, and do useful non-clinical work for, a host community or organization for one week in a remote area in Western Australia. A series of preparatory and post-immersion activities (including film viewing, debating and site visits) are provided to prepare students for the experience. In 2009, the style and format in which these activities were delivered was changed in response to student feedback. The changes comprised altering the format of the Program Handbook from an information repository to a workbook equipping students with critical thinking frameworks such as: de Bono’s Six Thinking Hats (1992) and graphic organizers to facilitate reflection on preparatory and post-immersion activities. All changes were based on humanistic, cognitive and constructivist approaches to learning. These changes were followed by improvements in students’ perceptions of several activities. Activities preparing students to undertake and reflect on a cultural immersion experience involve student engagement in active learning and critical thinking. Educators involved in preparing students for placements in other underserved, culturally and/or geographically diverse settings may employ these approaches to learning and adapt the activities described in this paper as suited to the needs of their particular professional group.