oa African Journal of Health Professions Education - Cross-cultural medical education : using narratives to reflect on experience

Volume 5, Issue 1
  • ISSN : 0256-9574
  • E-ISSN: 2078-5127



Educating students in a multi-cultural society is a challenge as teachers, students and the community they serve all tend to represent various social groups. Skills alone are not adequate for competency in understanding cultural aspects of consultations. A combination of knowledge, skills and attitude is the most widely accepted current approach to teaching culturally competent communication to medical students. Collaborative reflection on narratives of experienced clinicians' cultural encounters served to construct an understanding of how to develop these attributes.

An interest group of medical teachers met to address the specific needs of teaching a relevant cross-cultural curriculum. Participants offered narratives from their professional life and reflected on these encounters to understand how to improve the current curriculum to better address the needs of the students and patients they serve.
Through narratives, participants were able to reflect on how their experience had allowed them to develop cultural awareness. All stories represented how attitudes of respect, curiosity and unconditional positive regard were held above all else. The process of collaborative reflection with peers unpacked the complexity and potential in the stories and different learning opportunities were discovered. Learning was personalised because the stories were based on real experiences.
The use of collaborative reflection on narratives of clinical encounters could facilitate insights about cultural aspects of medical practice. Elements such as curiosity, respect and unconditional positive regard are illustrated in a unique way that allows students to appreciate the real-life aspects of cross-cultural clinical encounters.

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