Two Aboriginal Registered Nurses Show Us Why Black Nurses Caring for Black Patients Is Good Medicine

Article excerpt

ABSTRACT

In Queensland, Aboriginal nurses are limited in number in comparison to the mainstream nursing workforce. More Aboriginal registered nurses are needed to cater for Aboriginal patients in our Australian healthcare system in view of today's burgeoning Indigenous health crisis. It is a foregone conclusion that Aboriginal nurses are the most suitable nurses to provide optimal cross cultural care for Aboriginal patients, due to having similar cultural backgrounds. The following paper will show how two Aboriginal registered nurses are optimistic about the possibilities of expanding the ranks of Aboriginal registered nurses through role modelling, and are channelling their research to achieve this with the aim of promoting better health outcomes for their people. A qualitative research approach has been used to examine the subjective human experience of the participants. Three dominant themes emerged from the research and will be expanded upon within the body of this paper to support the authors' thesis that Aboriginal nurses are a valuable commodity to address the Aboriginal health crisis.

KEYWORDS: Black/Aboriginal Nurses; Aboriginal patients; cultural safety; cultural healing

INTRODUCTION

The following article is written from an Aboriginal perspective as we are both Aboriginal registered nurses. We have professional Aboriginal health backgrounds incorporating a range of Indigenous healthcare areas such as: Aboriginal health services, rural and remote area nursing, partnerships and employment within the tertiary sector teaching cross cultural and Indigenous health course content to mainstream nursing students. Our roles have encompassed working as mentors, role models and advocates to upcoming Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander registered nurses. Having lived the experience as professional Aboriginal registered nurses, we believe we can be considered authoritative in this grass roots knowledge surrounding Indigenous nursing issues. The following paper will explore the journey of Aboriginal nurses and how they are fighting back to resurrect their inherent birthright to provide optimal nursing care for their people.

Historically, in Aboriginal culture, traditional healing methods and practices were used instinctively by tribal members endowed with healing powers, which in today's context, could translate into health professionals such as Aboriginal nurses and doctors. This was necessary to ensure that the wellness of their people was sustained and kept at an optimal harmonious equilibrium. Traditional healing was managed with resources from the immediate natural environment and the knowledge of bush medicines, which was a must to ensure the very survival of many Aboriginal tribal groups (Gorman, Nielsen, & Best, 2006). There is a plethora of research confirming that prior to colonisation in this great land, the health status of Aboriginal people was exemplary (Burns & Irvine, 2003; Fitzgerald, 1986; Queensland State Archives, 1890). The consummate health status of this population was solely due to the necessity for physical strength, a requirement for this hunter gatherer population (Devanesen, 2000). Physical activity was complemented by a holistic lifestyle of consuming natural organic foods from the environment, a strong sense of kinship, of cultural identity and a profound spirituality linked to mother earth, which leftthe people wanting for nothing. This is a strong indication that the health status of Aboriginal people directly correlates with lifestyle practices. In our opinion Aboriginal existence prior to colonisation was a highly sophisticated culture which was sustainable both environmentally and humanly to support future generations; a culture, which in our opinion was unmatched by any of the time. In stark contrast is the health status of today's Aboriginal Australia, which is now plagued with conditions such as heart and coronary disease, diabetes, renal failure and a multitude of cancers, all largely absent before colonisation (Best, 2003; Howitt, McCracken, & Curson, 2005). …