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Child health nurses need more anti-racism education: study

Are child health nurses equipped to challenge racism in the workplace?

The findings of a new study suggest that they don’t believe so.

Flinders University researchers held focus group discussions with 31 child and family health nurses to find out how they understood and made sense of racism, and learn more about the ways they contribute to protecting kids from culturally unsafe healthcare practice.

It revealed that even when nurses noticed structural racism, they often felt incapable of challenging it.

As a result, the research team said there is an urgent need for the introduction of anti-discriminatory education and training in the nursing workforce.

Lead researcher, Associate Professor Julian Grant, said while child health nurses often identify racism or potential racism they’re not given the education and training needed to help them counter it in practice.

Some study participants felt their practice was racist because they were not supported by the organisation to support families with culturally appropriate practices, such as co-sleeping. “They felt that this made their practice racist by not being able to support parent/family choices,” Grant said.

She said the team also uncovered a lot of misunderstanding about what racism actually was.

“Many child health nurses did not recognise that their personal beliefs and values directly impacted on the care they provided for families.

“They are all hard-working child health nurses who are doing the best with the knowledge they have. The main issue is that they, and most other health professionals, need education and tangible strategies to counter racism in practice,” she said.

The study team said the nurses's feedback shows that Australia urgently needs anti-racist education in pre-service, graduate and workplace education.

“Most importantly we need further research to find out what anti-racist approaches work best for Australian children and families,” said Grant.

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