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Barriers and facilitators for Indigenous students and staff in health and human services educational programs

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Abstract

Indigenous Peoples are underrepresented in many of the Health and Human Services Educational Programs (HHSEP, e.g.: Nursing, Social Work). As various studies have reported the benefits of diversifying HHSEP, the barriers and facilitators of increasing the number of Indigenous Peoples in these professions must be identified. The purpose of this exploratory study is to identify and understand the barriers and facilitators Indigenous Peoples face when entering, learning or working in HHSEP. A narrative approach was used in the facilitation of culturally safe sharing circles with Indigenous students and staff to collect perspectives based on their individual experiences in HHSEP. Inductive thematic analysis was used to identify emerging themes in participant experiences and the impact of those experiences on participation in learning and working at the university in these educational programs. Results from this exploratory study identified current academic structures and ideologies rooted in colonialism, that act as barriers for engagement and inclusion of Indigenous students, staff, and clinical and academic faculty. These findings shaped the main themes of this study including negotiation of identity in different spaces, negotiating colonial structures in HHSEP, and negotiating changes and transitions in HHSEP. We anticipate these preliminary results will act as a catalyst for uncovering further changes to be made regarding attitudes, procedures, and practices present in an academic environment that limit the inclusion of Indigenous Peoples in HHSEP.

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Acknowledgements

The success of cultural safety measures in lending to safe spaces for in-depth conversation could not have been done without the Indigenous members of our research team. Indigenous team members put in time and energy to educate non-Indigenous team members on appropriate land acknowledgements, how to share our vulnerabilities before asking the same of the participants, and how to word our questions in the most respectful way. The settler authors are grateful for the work and energy asked of Indigenous authors, they taught us the importance of a genuine expression of gratitude. We would like to acknowledge the contribution of all of the participants who so gracefully and generously gifted us with their stories to share in this paper. We would like to acknowledge Hannah Doyle’s help and support with revising the paper.

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KJC and EN contributed substantially to the study design, acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data for the work, drafting the paper and revising it critically for important intellectual content. HBM and HM contributed substantially to the study design, acquisition, analysis, and interpretation of data for the work, and revising it critically for important intellectual content. AQ, YM and TJ contributed substantially to the study design, analysis, and interpretation of data for the work, revising it critically for important intellectual content and supervising all aspects of the study. All the authors provided final approval of the version to be published, and agreement to be accountable for all aspects of the work in ensuring that questions related to the accuracy or integrity of any part of the work are appropriately investigated and resolved.

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Correspondence to Yael Mayer.

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Joy-Correll, K., Nevill, E., Bird-Matheson, H. et al. Barriers and facilitators for Indigenous students and staff in health and human services educational programs. Adv in Health Sci Educ 27, 501–520 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10459-022-10099-6

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