Issues in educating health professionals to meet the diverse needs of patients and other service users from ethnic minority groups



    1. Professor of Nursing, Dean of the School of Health and Director of Health Service Provision, University of Wolverhampton, Wolverhampton, UK
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Mel Chevannes, School of Health, University of Wolverhampton, Walsall Campus, Gorway Road, Walsall WS1 3BD, UK. E-mail:


Aim.  The main aim of the study was to undertake training needs analysis among a multi-professional group for the purpose of improving care for ethnic minority patients and other service users.

Background.  Evidence from the literature identifies that some of the explanations advanced for the failure of health professionals to meet the needs of ethnic minorities include lack of understanding of cultural diversities, racism, racial stereotyping, lack of knowledge, exclusiveness, and ethnocentrism. While these issues have been addressed in different countries, little work has been carried out to examine these from the perspective of health professionals caring for ethnic minorities. This study is therefore an attempt to find out what health professionals know about caring for patients and other service users from minority ethnic groups and their perception of training needs in this area of work.

Methods.  A pre- and post-training design phase structured the qualitative approach. A purposive sample of individuals working across five health service organizations located in a multi-racial city yielded a multi-professional group of participants. Views of 22 participants were obtained by semi-structured interviews at a pretraining phase. Training needs of health professionals drew on Walklin's (1992 ) six stages used to structure data collection, data analysis and delivery of training. The post-training phase used questionnaires to evaluate immediate learning that based on a 4-week period of reflection and applied to practice. The questionnaires were complemented by a facilitator-lead focus group.

Results.  The majority of the participants confirmed that no attention was given in their initial education to the health care needs of minority ethnic groups. Instead, participants engaged in self-initiated learning to improve their knowledge and understanding. The issue of communication was viewed with dissatisfaction and seen as affecting the sufficiency of caring for these patients. All participants rated meeting the needs of ethnic minorities as very important and believed that they had gained a better understanding of the concepts of ethnicity and race and resources available in local communities as a result of the training. They also reported changes in thinking about ethnic minorities and had started to acquire greater confidence to engage with colleagues about different cultural values and practices and the implications of these for caring. While a quarter of the participants had transferred some learning to practice, the majority were not able to bring about any change. This majority response challenged the sustainability of learning about ethnic minorities when training takes place away from the context in which professionals practise.

Conclusion.  Training embedded in clinical and nonclinical environment where patients and other service users and professionals interact is offered as a major finding.